Long Term Disability, Unionized Employees and the Jurisdiction of the Courts
Earlier this year, we appeared before the Ontario Court of Appeal, in the case of Barber v. The Manufacturers Life Insurance Company (Manulife Financial), 2017 ONCA 164 (CanLII) which revisited what has become an age-old question about whether disputes regarding non-payment of Long Term Disability Claim for unionized employees belongs in the Courts or should be dealt with through Arbitration.
The Court of Appeal found that the facts of Barber required any such disputes to be grieved through the provisions outlined in the collective agreement. As they did not consider that the decision of the lower Court constituted a “palpable and overriding error” and furthermore agreed with Justice Belobaba that the Collective Agreement incorporated the terms of the long term disability plan, thus obligating the employer to ensure that such benefits were provided even though decisions regarding the payment of the benefits rested entirely with Manulife.
The Court of Appeal arrived at a similar conclusion a few months later in the Morriseau v. Sun Life, 2017 ONSC 686. Again, the Court reviewed the terms of the collective agreement and determined that the long term disability plan was incorporated into the agreement. Sun Life acted as an administrator or agent of the employer only in this case with financial liability for the benefits remaining with the employer.
The disappointing aspects of these cases is that the expectation of the parties and the availability of a remedy seemed to get no real consideration in the Court. The fact that both claimants deserving of further long term disability benefits in cases like these may be left without a viable remedy did not appear to trouble the Court.
Unions Are Supposed To Represent Members In Pursuing Long Term Disability Benefits
With respect to the expectation of the parties, I refer to what both employers and unions intended to occur when arriving at a workable collective agreement. In many cases, it may come as quite a rude awakening that unions are supposed to represent their members in pursuing disability benefits where a 3rd party insurance company has rejected or terminated such claims. Employers and Unions who intended for such disputes to be dealt with outside the labour relations system need to take a close look at their collective agreements to ensure that these types of issues don’t continue to arise in the future.
There can be no doubt that in certain situations, both the employer and the union do wish to have such matters dealt with through the labour relations systems and in such cases the unions have taken steps to ensure that their members are provided with competent representation to give their members the best chance at success in recovering disability insurance benefits.
If, however, the intention is to permit unionized employees to pursue claims against insurers through the Courts, then the collective agreements need to spell this out in a clear manner to prevent claims from getting stuck in a dispute over the most appropriate forum.
Difficult To See Efforts Made By Insurers To Shift Matters To Labour Relations
As a law firm that predominantly handles LTD disputes, it is difficult to see efforts being made by insurers to shift these matters to the labour relations world as anything more than a bald attempt to delay, deflect and avoid paying valid claims. Ultimately, people who have had their LTD claims denied are simply seeking that their claims be honoured and that the question of entitlement be dealt with on the merits rather than standing behind procedural issues to further delay dealing with the question of entitlement.
If you find yourself or someone you know trying to navigate their way through these complex questions, the best advice is to talk to your union to get a clear answer from them regarding your rights when your LTD benefits have been denied. The difficulty is that often the front-line union reps aren’t so sure about these questions. You should also consult experienced disability insurance lawyers who can help to determine what the best course of action is in your case.
Denied your long term disability claim?
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A note from our long term disability lawyers
Taking a medical leave from work is not an easy decision to make. Concerns about providing for yourself and your family and keeping your job may cause you to want to push through your pain, but this won’t make your problems go away. Stopping work is often the smartest decision for your long term health and well-being, and your disability benefits are there to provide you with financial support until you can return to work.
If you have made the tough decision to stop working and apply for your short term disability or long term disability benefits, you may feel overwhelmed by the process and have questions that your employer and your insurance company are not able or willing to answer. Share is There to see you through and answer your questions.
Our Disability law firm knows what you have been going through
We understand that things have not been easy for you over the last little while. Your health has been suffering, you are unable to work, and now your insurance company, who was supposed to be there in your time of need, has decided they will not pay your disability benefits or respect your disability claim. These benefits exist to provide you with the financial support you need so that you can focus on your health and rebuilding your life. It is unfortunate that your insurance company has not lived up to its promise. If your disability claim has been denied, we will fight to get you the benefits you are entitled to. Our disability lawyers have helped thousands of Canadians get their long term disability benefits over the past 35 years, and we can help you too.
Our experienced disability lawyers can fight back on your behalf
Share Lawyers believes that every client who is dealing with a disability claim deserves superior personal service. To achieve that goal, we have developed our team of experienced, compassionate, and caring long term disability lawyers, law clerks, and administrative staff to meet all of your needs. Our team of experienced long term disability, life insurance, employment, and critical illness insurance lawyers have made successful claims against many insurance companies, third-party administrators and employers.
If you are unable to work, your disability benefits should be there to provide you with the financial support you need. While your insurance company may be focused on finding ways to avoid paying your claim, our focus is on what is in your best interest. When Share Lawyers gets involved, you have an entire team of lawyers that are there to support you and to fight for what is yours.
Our disability claim lawyers fight for your disability insurance claim by relying on our many years of experience to apply the best strategic planning and approach in each case, using the latest technology available. Experience matters, and with Share Lawyers, you are in the best hands with 35 years of success on your side.
In this video, we explain the role of a long term disability lawyer and how we can support you when you have been denied your long term disability benefits.