An employee of a popular tour company in British Columbia, Canada recently prevailed on his claim for workers’ compensation benefits for post traumatic stress disorder after he was allegedly required to participate in a large-scale slaughter of sled dogs. The worker was employed with Outdoor Adventures Whistler, a tour operator in Whistler, B.C. which provides sled tours of the region. In early 2010, business was booming as the Winter Olympics brought thousands of people into the area. However, the company experienced a significant drop in business afterwards, and in April 2010, it decided to slaughter a number of its idle sled dogs to cut costs. The practice came to light when the filed a claim with WorksafeBC, the Province’s health and safety authority, for post-traumatic stress disorder. The employee claimed his condition developed after he personally killed over 100 dogs by shooting them and slashing their throats. The employee further claimed that the dogs did not always die immediately and stated that he had to witness some ugly incidents.
WorksafeBC approved the employee’s claim for workers’ compensation benefits. After reviewing the file, the B.C. branch of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals launched an investigation into the matter.
My Two Cents:
In addition to going to jail, the employee’s claim for workers’ compensation benefits would have more than likely been unsuccessful under Alabama law. First, in order for a psychological injury to be compensable under Alabama law, the employee must suffer a physical injury to the body, and the physical injury must be the proximate cause of the psychological injury. The employee in this case did not suffer any physical injury. In recent years, claimants have attempted to circumvent this requirement by claiming that post traumatic stress disorder is an occupational disease. However, in order for an employee to prevail on a claim for an occupational disease, he must prove by clear and convincing evidence that he was exposed to a hazard greater than those ordinarily incident to employment in general, and the risk must be peculiar to the occupation in which the employee is engaged. In addition, the physical injury requirement also remains for PTSD to be considered an occupational disease.