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Letter to the editor

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Worker’s Compensation Board
When public bodies online methods of accessing a service, care needs to be exercised to prevent unfairness arising from confusing technology.

Liam worked his entire career in the newspaper printing industry in a noisy environment surrounded by printers and industrial machinery. When he began experiencing hearing loss, he assumed it was due to his long-term exposure to the noise at work and so filed a claim with the Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB). Upon learning that his claim was denied, Liam explained to his claim manager that he would be requesting a review of the decision by WCB’s Review Division and promptly went online to create and submit his appeal. Three months passed and Liam still had not heard from WCB in response to his appeal. He called WCB to ask for an update and was informed that his appeal was never received by the Review Division and that the time period for submitting his request had expired. Liam was told he could submit an Application for an Extension of Time to appeal the decision and did so. Liam’s extension of time application was denied with the explanation that there were no exceptional circumstances that prevented him from appealing the original decision on time.

Feeling like he was being treated unfairly, Liam contacted us.

We investigated whether WCB followed a fair process when handling Liam’s hearing loss claim. WCB had records of Liam telling his claim manager that he intended to appeal the decision. It also had a digital record of Liam logging into their online portal and creating an appeal application, however there was no record of his application finally being submitted. Liam should have seen a confirmation screen after submitting his request but he was unfamiliar with the online review application process and did not know to look for one when he clicked the submit button.

Based on our investigation, we proposed that WCB allow Liam an extension of time to appeal the denial of his hearing loss claim. WCB explained to us that it understood our concerns and welcomed Liam to submit an appeal of the denial of the extension of time request, which he subsequently did. We also proposed that the WCB consider amending their online application system to ensure applicants are aware that they should look for a confirmation screen after submitting a claim.

WCB agreed to our recommendations and committed to revising their online application system. Liam was successful in his application for reconsideration of the denial of his extension of time request, enabling him to appeal the WCB’s initial hearing loss decision as he had always intended.

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