As a bank teller, he took new tellers under his wing. As a bank manager, he gained renown for good training. Once a Certified Human Resources Professional, he focused on training for his region. By age 32, Baxter Kerr had become a sought-after trainer in financial services. Then his peers lost their jobs to cutbacks.
His workload increasing while his colleagues looked for work, Baxter’s friends and family were proud of his endurance. Yet, he felt that he could endure no more. A lifetime sufferer of stress, diagnosed at age 20 with an anxiety disorder, Baxter was now having panic attacks daily. He feared that he could not sustain the stress of his job. His was no longer a rewarding career.
In past years, Baxter managed to keep his anxiety problem to himself and had coped fairly well. Because of his involvement in Human Resources, he knew enough to consult a psychologist through his employer’s group benefits plan. Each year he had used his allotted number of free counselling sessions.
This year, he had reached the limit and still felt needy. Just thinking about applying for insurance benefits for further relief caused him lost sleep. He was not coping.
Baxter’s family doctor knew about his anxiety problem and, after assessing his worsened condition, wrote a letter supporting his application for disability insurance benefits. The doctor’s letter stated that the pre-existing condition of the anxiety disorder, compounded by recent workplace stress with no relief in sight, amounted to a disabling condition.
The insurance company flatly denied disability benefits. The denial letter said that workplace stress is not covered and that Mr. Kerr ought to continue coping as he had done before.
Struggling to go to work every day, this denial of benefits emboldened him. He became so determined to convince the insurer of his need for relief that, after discussing it with close friends, he contacted Share Lawyers.
Was workplace stress enough to claim a disability? Would it be enough if he could prove his history with an anxiety disorder? What evidence would be necessary to prove that workplace stress was disabling him?
When Share Lawyers accepted his case, the fight for entitlement began with amassing evidence. Records from new assessments would complement notes from his family doctor and from the psychologist he had seen. With these would go statements about the increased demands on him and the anxiety-inducing effects of his peers losing their jobs. The case would go through an extensive discovery process.
When the insurer argued that Baxter had been coping for years and that workplace stress should not disable him all of a sudden, Share Lawyers countered with considerable evidence that he had indeed been brought past a reasonable limit and could not continue so disabled. Though mediation failed to resolve it, when the matter proceeded to pre-trial before an Ontario Superior Court Judge, the insurer finally agreed to pay a substantial settlement.
*Names have been fictionalized to protect the privacy of our clients.