Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Patrick Clayton fall out continues...

One of the more interesting items that has emerged in the wake of Patrick Clayton’s sentencing for taking hostages at the WCB in 2009 is the story of Nicole Ferguson.

Ferguson was a WCB employee who fled from Clayton and hid during the hostage taking. She subsequently developed post-traumatic stress disorder. In the radio interview she did this morning (available at the link above), she indicated she suffered from anxiety before the hostage taking; anxiety increases the likelihood of developing PTSD.

The short version of her story is that her employment was terminated by the WCB this June. Ferguson states she believes she was terminated because of her condition. Obviously we don’t know all of the facts and the WCB has declined to discuss her termination, citing concerns about Ferguson’s privacy.

The only comment I can find is this one which suggests the WCB tried to accommodate her but felt it had reached the point of undue hardship:

A WCB spokeswoman would not discuss the details of Ferguson's departure from the WCB because of privacy reasons, but said the board prides itself on a flexible work environment.

"As an employer, we make every possible effort to accommodate work restrictions and needs," Marcela Matthew said. "We take great pride in that."

However, Matthew said those efforts do not always end successfully. "For example, if someone can't do office work, our options may be limited."

How that jives with Ferguson's statement that "My supervisor told me that if I was seen to be crying at my desk, I would be sent home. I was told because I wasn't smiley and happy that I was a disgrace." is unclear.

One of the more interesting (and unanswered) questions is whether Ferguson filed a compensation claim (and whether the WCB, as her employer, also reported the injury). The traumatic events she witnessed that triggered her condition seem to fit the narrow circumstances in which the Alberta WCB would accept a psychological injury claim.

-- Bob Barnetson

1 comment:

  1. I wonder if a man had been the victim whether it the employer's reaction would have been different. I say this as there is a view in the medical community that many work related problems associated to women are psychological in nature, whereas danger and it's associated effects (PTSD)is a normal functioning of a male worker and can be classified.

    While she may have suffered anxiety before the hostage taking the incident only serve to increase her uneasiness.

    One wonders if the WCB human resources department conducted any psychometric testing before Nicole Ferguson's hiring. If they did and they let her known anxiety issue pass then in my opinion WCB is an involuntary contributor to the resulting PTSD.

    Irrespective of the above, Ms. Ferguson worked in an environment where stressful confrontations between clients and WCB staff are likely. Their are not many go as far as Clayton. This goes to the point of (1) what is WCB doing to protect their staff from such events(2)if staff are suffering the affects of such events why is WCB failing to treat this worker and (3) if treatment is not going to put Ferguson back into the state she was in prior to Clayton's assault on WCB why is their no financial payout or pension for Miss Ferguson for her injury and suffering.

    I say shame on the Alberta Worker's Compensation Board and shame on the Alberta Government.