The Dangers of Work Insurance
I've been employed with Canada Post for over a decade and technically still am, but am just on unpaid leave. After manually unloading a 40 foot trailer by myself, I got a little cocky and tried to lift three heavy parcels without help. While attempting to lift the 3rd box, I felt a pop in my back. It didn’t hurt but felt weird enough that I reported it. A short time later, I was taken by ambulance to the hospital for the most excruciating pain I had ever experienced. Giving birth to three babies, each without medication, went from a 10 to an 8.5 on the pain scale.
The new girl at worker’s compensation approved my claim instantly. I initially missed two weeks of work and was fully accommodated when I returned. Over the next 8 months, I was in and out of a wheelchair before regaining near full mobility (thanks to the amazing chiropractor Maurice Cormier).
After being bumped to night shift, I required a refresher on the routine. The guy scheduled to train me, we’ll call him Cory (not his real name), was removed from the position due to a conflict with the supervisor. Despite having worked with Cory in the past without incident, he started harassing me upon my return. The final straw was when he told me he planned to hit me with a forklift and made two attempts to do so. This was within weeks of another employee being accidentally bumped by a forklift and becoming permanently disabled.
I provided a written complaint detailing the harassment and threats to management. The operations manager, we’ll call him Jackass (Jack for short), “investigated” my claims. He “lost” the security footage of the two attacks, “lost” the witnesses’ statements, “lost” two reports from other women that Cory had targeted, then reported to his superiors and worker’s comp that I made the whole thing up. And despite having interviewed the witnesses himself, he denied knowing anything about them.
I took two weeks off due to emotional distress. Upon my return, I was given a “safety” meeting about a random guy who drove his car into a bunch of people, killing them, and how safety was top priority at Canada Post. The on floor supervisor who hosted the meeting then told me privately that they were not going to stop Cory from coming after me. After Cory’s third attempt to hit me with a forklift, I left.
Worker’s compensation denied my claim and every recourse I took failed. My local union, whose president defended Cory, kept promising to help me but never did; my complaints were never filed with the grievance officer; the health and safety committee told me I wasn’t a priority; Jack’s boss believed I was lying and refused to listen; even the line we use to report harassment stated they only take complaints, but don’t do anything about them.
Almost overnight, I had no income and there was nothing I could do about it. I tried to return to work by transferring to another location and reducing my hours to part-time, but despite being in a new and safe location, I had repeated panic attacks.
Note: After I left, Cory harassed another female co-worker for months before eventually hitting her with a forklift. It was reported but nothing was done.
I finally escalated my complaints to the national union office. Suddenly, the witnesses’ statements were “found” as well as one of the two incident reports from the other women. Despite proving everything I said was true and everything Cory and Jack said were lies, my appeal to worker’s comp was still denied. My back gave out the next day.
I spent the next three years in and out of a wheelchair. Some weeks I was completely bedridden and had to crawl on my hands and knees to use the bathroom. The pain varied in intensity and ranged from uncomfortable to calling 911. My PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) claim was eventually approved but only to the point my back gave out. After going 5 months without severe symptoms since the end of my last claim, my back pain was considered a new condition and not related to my previous injury or the workplace induced PTSD. I was eventually approved for short-term disability but long-term disability was a different story.
It was a full year before Sun Life, Canada Post's insurance provider, denied my claim. (Until they deny you the first time, your hands are tied). It was another year before my multiple appeals were denied and I was no longer permitted to appeal.
During this time I was diagnosed with Chronic Pain Syndrome, an umbrella term for a neurological condition where your brain translates stress signals into pain signals. It was explained to me that my original injury created “pain super highways”. When I developed PTSD, my brain continued to use these super highways despite the original injury being improved, though never fully healed.
Sun Life sent me to specialists who confirmed the diagnosis and my limitations. Despite this, Sun Life stated they didn’t believe their specialists and that I was fully able to return to work without a wheelchair. I was made to return to work or be fired and lose my health benefits which covered about $6000 of the previous year’s medical bills.
I managed to work 7 out of my scheduled 40 hours, unable to complete any one shift. 45 minutes into my last shift, I was on the floor bawling in pain. At that point I didn’t care if I got fired.
I finally decided to sue Sun Life. My lawyer, who only does disability claims against insurance providers, stated that he sues Sun Life on average about 3 times a month. That’s one lawyer, in one city, suing a major national company. It appears that Sun Life habitually denies valid claims in hopes that the claimant gives up as it’s cheaper to pay the occasional lawsuit than to approve the claims. I will keep you posted on the progress of the lawsuit.
As an insurance broker, I asked the companies we work with what their claim payout rate was. Their answer was between 97-99%. I asked Sun Life what their claim payout rate was and they refused to tell me. If I was to wager a guess, I’d say it’d be closer to 60%. Cheaper insurance or a recognizable company name does not equate to better service.
90% of Canadians are under-insured but only 30% know it. When I work with clients, I consider work insurance to be a nice bonus but do not rely on it as the main policy. I wish my story was an anomaly but the longer I’m in this industry, the more horror stories I hear.
If you would like me to review your insurance policies, I’d be more than happy to do so. And as with all the services I provide, it’s complimentary meaning you don’t have to pay me anything other than referrals.
The opinions expressed in this blog are my own and do not reflect WFG or any other organization. I also claim any errors made as my own. To any person related to these events who would like proof to my claims, I have kept records of all the incidents provided and have written statements from the people involved. To offer corrections or feedback, please contact me at email@example.com. Sincerely, Tina Michelle Moller