Don Dunphy was treated fairly by Workplace NL, ombudsman rules

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Don Dunphy was treated fairly by Workplace NL, ombudsman rules

Don Dunphy may have described himself on Twitter as a "crucified" injured worker, but a report released Thursday found he had been treated appropriately.

Citizens' Representative Barry Fleming, who is also known as Newfoundland and Labrador's ombudsman, investigated how WorkplaceNL dealt with claims that Dunphy filed starting in 1984.

"Between 1984 and 2015, Donald Dunphy had placed a considerable amount of blame at the feet of WorkplaceNL and the Government of Newfoundland Labrador for his financial and emotional plight," Fleming wrote of Dunphy, whose fatal police shooting in his home has triggered a judicial inquiry.

But after reviewing more than three decades' worth of material, Fleming found that the provincial agency handled Dunphy's concerns appropriately, at least in accordance with policies that governments of the time had enacted.

"We conclude that Mr. Dunphy was treated fairly by Workplace NL during the history of his claims, having regard for the existing legislation and policy relevant throughout," Fleming wrote.

Royal Newfoundland Constabulary officer Joe Smyth fatally shot Dunphy in April 2015. He told investigators and later testified that he feared for his life because he saw Dunphy raise a rifle. 

Smyth travelled to Dunphy's home in Mitchells Brook on Easter Sunday to investigate messages that Dunphy had posted on Twitter that referenced politicians, including then-premier Paul Davis. 

Workers' comp policies 'irked' Dunphy 

In an interview with CBC News Thursday, Fleming said it was clear that Dunphy wanted changes to policies he felt were hurting him financially and psychologically.

"Now for Mr. Dunphy, he had a problem with what that legislation and policy meant for him and for other injured workers," Fleming said in an interview.

Those policies included, for instance, not giving claimants an income equal to what they earned before their injuries.

"There were aspects of the policy that irked him and progressively became more of an irritant to him," he said.

Dunphy lived in poverty for much of the time that he fought Workplace NL — formerly known as the Workers' Compensation Commission — over his claims.

In the last year of his life, he lived on extended earnings loss income of $380.53 a week, as well as Canada Pension Plan disability benefits.

Photos presented to the judicial inquiry headed by Leo Barry show that Dunphy — whose injuries and severe back pain prevented him from working for long as a truck driver and snowplow operator —  lived in difficult if not squalid circumstances.

Fleming made recommendations that include offering "social work and psychological services for workers who are experiencing difficulty in dealing with the altered life experience caused by a workplace injury."

He also recommended those services be offered early in the claim process.

As well, he recommended offering more information — and earlier — about the core values of the workers' compensation system to injured workers.