Written by Daniel Standing LL.B., Editor, First Reference Inc.
2023 BCSC 196 (CanLII) tells the tale of an injured employee who didn’t agree with the employment outlook he received from British Columbia’s Workers’ Compensation Board (WorkSafeBC), or with its curtailment of his job search benefits. The court’s position shows how decisions like these can be reasonable, even if the employee remains unconvinced.
The worker’s troubles began when he hurt his left pinky finger with a saw while working in construction in White Rock. His injury entitled him to wage loss benefits, with WorkSafeBC eventually concluding his finger condition, marked by chronic pain, was a permanent partial disability.
As part of the disability assessment process, vocational rehabilitation services helped him find a job that respected his limitations and would replace his pre-accident earnings. WorkSafeBC determined that work as a paralegal was appropriate based on its low physical demands and the worker’s background and training. (Prior to immigrating from India to Canada, he’d practiced law for 10 years and had a master’s degree in journalism.)
Starting in May 2019, the worker was paid job search benefits-for three times longer than the default maximum under the policy-while he looked for paralegal work, but these were cut off at the end of the year because the worker hadn’t tried hard enough, and only in a small area.
Having gone through the Appeals Tribunal process, the worker now found himself in the Supreme Court of British Columbia arguing a long list of “concerns” he had with the WorkSafeBC’s decisions that paralegal work was suitable for him and in ceasing his job search benefits.
The court’s decision
The court first said it would ignore any evidence that was presented that wasn’t before the WorkSafeBC, as the original decision-maker, like that of increased pain and mood disorders. Accepting WorkSafeBC’s summary of how the Supreme Court describes a reasonable decision as coming from “internally coherent reasoning” and being “justified in relation to the constellation of law and facts.” The Court offered some factors that can be useful in assessing if a decision is legally reasonable, including any applicable laws and statutes, evidence, past practices and the impact on the impacted individual. It’s all case-specific and here the court held that neither disputed decision was unreasonable.
For example, the court said the worker’s concern that his typing deficiency wasn’t given enough consideration were overcome by the fact he and the vocational rehabilitation people had addressed that by focusing on positions that would be light on typing but utilize his strengths more.
The court said the ending of job search benefits was a separate issue, and there was a “rational flow” from the evidence to the policies the WorkSafeBC considered to the conclusion that was reached.
As a result, the court dismissed both petitions for judicial review.
Every case is unique but “reasonable” decisions are made every day by administrative decision-makers across all fields. In the ever-growing sea of jurisprudence, these decisions share certain features. They are based on coherent logic, they can be read and understood, they have a rational flow, and can be justified based on the facts and law. Even if the worker (or employer, for that matter) doesn’t agree with the administrative decision, if it has these traits, it’s probably reasonable.