07 February 2021 Posted By : Jason Proctor

Air Canada flight attendant wins fight over COVID-19 workers' compensation

A B.C-based Air Canada flight attendant who says she contracted COVID-19 during a series of long-haul flights last March has won a battle with the airline for workers' compensation.

A WorkSafeBC officer sided with the flight attendant over the airline, which claimed the risk of getting COVID-19 on flights was "relatively low."

The decision, which was reached in early January, is one of several recent rulings that highlight the struggles that employees in different fields have had in trying to get compensation for workplace exposure to the coronavirus — particularly in the early days of the pandemic.

Because the flight attendant got sick last spring, her application predated changes to provincial legislation last August that appear to have made B.C. a leader in Canada in dealing with COVID-19-related workers' compensation claims.

The province is alone in introducing presumptive coverage that adds COVID-19 to its list of occupational illnesses — like lead- or asbestos-related sicknesses.

The change means employees who make a claim after catching COVID-19 at work no longer have to prove they got it on the job if they work in an environment where risk of exposure is significantly greater than to the public at large.

That's in contrast to other provinces, where COVID-19 claims are treated on a case-by-case basis.

'An unfortunate thing to have to deal with'

Wesley Lesosky, president of the airline division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, says the union would like to see the rest of the country follow B.C.'s example.

"We'd definitely like to see the same system that British Columbia has adopted where it's just recognized — period," Lesosky told CBC News.

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