A gay firefighter with the Department of National Defence who was subjected to harassment, abuse and death threats as a result of his sexual orientation is set to receive financial benefits, overturning a 2012 ruling that rejected the worker’s claims for injury compensation.
The firefighter, who was based at Canadian Forces Base Halifax, suffered physical threats and on one occasion had his oxygen mask tampered with.
In 2012, the Nova Scotia Workers’ Compensation Board turned down the employee’s claims for injury benefits. However, an appeal board has now judged that the harassment suffered by the individual has led to psychological injury.
Appeal commissioner K. Andrew MacNeil said, “The worker is suffering a psychological disorder caused by his experiences at the workplace.
“It is remarkable that the worker remained in the workplace as long as he did, and more remarkable that the treatment to which he was subjected was allowed to continue through to the worker’s departure from the workplace.”
The firefighter, who is unnamed, was able to use doctor’s reports and evidence from the workplace to support his case.
MacNeil added, “I have identified at least three instances where the worker would perceive actual or threatened death or serious injury to himself or others, or perceive a threat to his physical integrity.”
The man, who was open about his homosexuality with his co-workers, suffered direct insults, while gay pornography was distributed anonymously in the workplace and roommates moved out of the communal dorm room the firefighters shared. Physical assault included an incident in which a metal-skinned door was thrown at him.
The ruling added, “On a third occasion, the worker discovered that his breathing apparatus, part of his personal protective equipment, had been tampered with so as to allow outside air, gases and smoke to enter his face mask directly in the event of a fire.”
Medical documents indicated that the man became depressed as a result of his treatment, opting to take up an office job away from front-line firefighting duties, yet the abuse continued.
The appeal commissioner has now ordered the workers’ compensation board to assess the benefits that could be payable.