Workplace bullying and stress led to death of employee: compensation board

Published on April 1, 2017

Lisa Donovan, whose husband Eric died of a heart attack, says she thought she would have more closure after the Workers Compensation Board ruled workplace bullying and stress led to his death. Ryan Ross/TC Media

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - The last day Lisa Donovan spent with her husband Eric she told him he had to go on stress leave.  

He never got the chance.

Eric had a heart attack 15 minutes later in the couple’s home on Oct. 31, 2013 where he collapsed on the floor.

He died 11 days later without regaining consciousness.

On Dec. 2, 2016 the Workers Compensation Board issued a decision that found Eric’s death was related to workplace bullying and harassment while working at Queens County Residential Services.

Lisa said it has taken her a while to process it all.

“I thought I would have more closure,” she said.

Queens County Residential Services is a not-for-profit organization that provides services to adults with intellectual disabilities.

In the 2016-2017 fiscal year the government provided the organization with $4.5 million in funding.

Eric worked there for 17 years and Lisa alleged his supervisor Nadine Hendriken bullied him to the point that stress, anxiety and fear caused his heart attack.

Lisa spent three years fighting to have that bullying ruled as the cause of her husband’s heart attack.

He was 47 when he died.

She said an autopsy showed there was nothing physically wrong with Eric’s heart and genetic testing showed no pre-existing conditions.

The Workers Compensation Board decision said there was a lack of medical evidence to support that Eric’s death was a result of a pre-existing heart condition.

That led to the conclusion the evidence weighed more heavily in favour of bullying and harassment causing the heart attack.

With the decision, Lisa will get undisclosed spousal benefits on a monthly basis until she turns 65 and a one-time lump sum payment of $10,000.

For Lisa, it wasn’t about the money.

She said it was about accountability.

“It doesn’t bring Eric back but to say this is what happened to my husband and that maybe his legacy will be that other people don’t have to suffer.”

Lisa said she plans to continue raising the issue of workplace bullying, including trying to meet with Premier Wade MacLauchlan.

“I’m in it for the long haul.”

The couple’s kids have asked if the fight is worth it and Lisa said she told them it was.

“Always speak out for what you believe in.”

Although she said she doesn’t know if she will ever feel closure, she is feeling better.

“I’m healing.”

The Guardian attempted to contact Queens County Residential Services executive director Bill Lawlor, but he was on vacation.

An attempt to contact Hendriken was also unsuccessful.