Liability could extend to mental damage

The scene is being set for a dramatic transformation of employer liability in Canada.
By David Brown
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 03/30/2001

In the near future, employers could be held liable for the psychological harm caused to employees who are treated unfairly by employers, said Martin Shain, a senior scientist with the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto.

There are members in the scientific community who maintain psychological damage done by employers is no less harmful than exposure to toxic substances and therefore employers should be held liable for inflicting psychological harm on employees. Shain uses the term “psychotoxic” to describe power-based relationships that are harmful to employees.

Negative working conditions — specifically those characterized by high demands and low control or high effort with little reward — are predictive of a wide range of negative outcomes including anxiety and depression, increased substance abuse and cardiovascular problems, accident rates and even increased infectious diseases and some forms of cancer, said Shain.