WSIB staff apologizes for handling of “return to work” meeting where worker was terminated

A worker complained to the Commission that the return to work specialist (RTWS) behaved inappropriately with respect to a meeting in which the worker was terminated. The RTWS had notified him about a return to work meeting at the worksite and with the accident employer.

Expecting to discuss his return to work, the worker asked his spouse to go with him because of ongoing symptoms from the work-related head injury. The RTWS, however, would not allow the spouse in the meeting. The RTWS remained throughout even though return to work was not discussed. Instead, the employer terminated the worker, who had no union representative with him.

The worker told the Commission that he felt that he had been asked to the meeting on false pretenses and that he felt coerced to sign documents. It was unfair that his wife was barred from the meeting, he said, and when he expressed his concerns to a WSIB manager, he didn’t feel heard.

The Commission spoke to a manager, who acknowledged that information in the claim file suggested that the WSIB knew the employer intended to fire the worker at the “return to work” meeting. The manager also agreed that the RTWS did not remain neutral and impartial, as required, but behaved inappropriately.

The WSIB manager clarified that the RTWS could have:

1. Cancelled the “return to work” meeting;

2. Informed the accident employer that she would not participate in the termination meeting;

3. Explained to the worker why she was excusing herself; and,

4. Allowed the worker’s spouse to attend.

Because of the Commission’s inquiries, the RTWS apologized to the worker and discussed with him how she could have better handled the situation. The worker accepted the apology.