Seminar Presentation 6-3

6-3 (Presentation within Topical Seminar 6):
Perceived injustice in injured workers: analysis of public responses to an injured worker who took Workers’ Compensation Board employees hostage

Presented by: Douglas P Gross

Seminar Details

Part of Topical Seminar 6: Justice in the Compensation System
Tuesday September 30

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Brown CA1, Bostick GP1, Lim J1, Gross DP1

  1. University of Alberta



Perceived injustice is frequently identified in injured workers’ experience, with consequences of perceived injustice ranging from a negative impact on pain perception to retaliatory, aggressive actions. In October 2009 a workers’ compensation claimant in Alberta took 8 people hostage, stating he did this because he was treated unfairly and had benefits terminated prematurely. Public response to this event, available through the social media channels of on-line postings to the national news organization, presented an opportunity to examine perceived injustice in a compensation context in a segment of the general public.


We performed a qualitative exploratory study of public comments posted on an online news website in response to the hostage taking. We extracted and examined 978 postings regarding the incident and selected 115 comments reflecting narratives of personal involvement with workers’ compensation for thematic analysis. The Workers' Compensation Board-Alberta (WCB) website was reviewed to verify the beliefs about WCB expressed by posters. A standardized assessment tool was used to determine the readability and accessibility of the WCB website. This helped us gain insight into potential communication barriers contributing to the information exchanged in the postings.


Including injustice, six inter-related themes emerged: retribution, perceived systemic mistreatment, injustice, empathy, disbelief, and loss. The most frequent categories of belief expressed about retribution against WCB were: “I understand why he would do it, but I don’t condone violence”; “WCB pushes you to the edge-this could have been me”; and “It is no surprise, there is more to come”. The final category, “people commit suicide” reflects that violent reactions to perceived injustice are not unidirectional. Claimants react with self-directed violence as well. We found beliefs expressed regarding WCB were often factually inaccurate. WCB materials were rated of poor quality in the domains of Literacy Demand and Cultural Appropriateness, potentially explaining some misperceptions held.


Personal narratives indicated strong perceptions of injustice. The lack of accurate information about workers’ compensation expressed may have contributed to perceptions of injustice.