Many individuals do not realize that stress is recognized as a legitimate work-related injury under California’s workers’ compensation laws. If a worker is experiencing stress due to their job or experiences a stressful event, it may be possible for them to seek workers’ compensation benefits if the stress results in a recognized mental disorder. But it is important to note that under California law, stress itself is not actually considered a mental disorder. Thus, a worker can usually only receive workers’ compensation benefits if the stress from a job or a stressful event ends up causing a worker to suffer from a recognized mental disorder or problem.
Some of the legally recognized psychiatric health conditions that might be considered compensable workplace injuries include anxiety disorders, dissociative disorders, depressive disorders, adjustment disorder, and post traumatic stress disorder. These psychiatric health conditions are found and defined in the American Psychiatric Associate’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or the DSM-V. If a worker suffers from one of these disorders or another and it was caused by work-related stress, and the worker suffers a disability as a result, then they may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits under California law.
There are generally two types of psychiatric injury claims that a worker might make under California’s workers’ compensation laws. These include mental conditions resulting from stress that was actually caused by a physical condition or injury such as depression, bodily pain, panic attacks, and diminished physical function. Other stress-caused psychiatric disorders may have no physical aspect whatsoever. These injuries might be caused by violent or traumatic encounters in the workplace.
How To Prove That A Workplace Injury Was Caused By Stress
Even if a worker suffers from a recognized psychiatric problem that was caused by job-related stress, it does not necessarily mean that they will receive workers’ compensation benefits. There are certain requirements under California law that must be met, and issues that must be established before a worker’s mental disorder injury might be approved as an injury that is entitled to benefits. Some of the requirements that must be met include:
1. Minimum employment period. What this means is that the injured worker must be able to establish that they worked for the employer against whom they are filing the claim for at least six months. The six month employment period does not have to be continuous.
2. A higher burden of proof must be met, meaning that the injured worker must be able to establish that the workplace stress was the primary cause or more than fifty percent of what caused the worker’s psychiatric condition.
3. Whether the employer can establish a good-faith personnel action defense. If the worker’s employer can prove that a primary factor that caused or contributed to the worker’s psychiatric disorder was a non-discriminatory, good-faith personnel action, then the worker will not be entitled to benefits. Some examples of these types of personnel actions include changes in job location or assignments, critiques of work product, decisions about promotion or pay increases, and any reprimands for missed work.
Knowledgeable and Dedicated Workers’ Compensation Lawyer in California
If you or a loved one has sustained a workplace injury or illness, you may be able to receive workers’ compensation benefits under California’s workers’ compensation law. Albert E. Hirst, III, has many years of experience assisting injured workers with their claims and he has the skills, knowledge, and the resources necessary to help you obtain the workers’ compensation benefits you are entitled to. Call our office today at (909) 885-7190 to schedule your free initial consultation and discover what we can do to help you.