Stress is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances. Every person responds differently to stressful events. Sometimes people develop temporary physical reactions to manage stressful situations, such as a rapid heartbeat or a rise in blood pressure. However, some people handle stress much differently and develop lasting physical or mental problems. Stress can even exacerbate an existing physical or mental condition. Lasting illnesses caused by stress include headaches, stomach aches, insomnia, depression, anxiety, and countless other conditions.
Let’s face it, most people experience some form of stress on a weekly if not daily basis. Anyone who has been engaged in the workforce is familiar with the array of ordinary stressors that accompany employment. Whether you are an over-worked secretary or a bartender with erratic work hours, you have probably experienced some level of stress as a direct result of your employment. However, some stressors are not so ordinary. For example, imagine a high-school teacher that develops anxiety because students harass him daily, or an employee that develops post-traumatic stress disorder after being verbally assaulted by a co-worker. These examples are a far cry from ordinary but happen more frequently than you might guess. So the question becomes, what happens when an employee faces an event or series of events at work that causes the employee’s stress levels to rise and, as a result, interferes with his/her ability to work?
The Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Act permits recovery for “emotional disabilities only where the predominant contributing cause of such disability is an event or series of events occurring within any employment.” This means that the employee is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if the events in the workplace are a primary factor or an actual cause of a serious emotional injury. The term emotional disability has been construed broadly and encompasses disabilities such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression. This broad construction means that more employees can bring claims to recover for emotional injuries caused by workplace events. This is great news for employees. However, the term “predominant contributing cause” tends to be the meat of an emotional injury dispute. The insurer will typically argue that an emotional injury is not compensable because it was not caused by work events, that it was a bona fide employer personnel action, and/or there was a pre-existing, non-work related emotional condition. When such arguments are raised, a skilled workers’ compensation attorney will seek the aid of a psychiatrist, psychologist or another qualified medical professional to determine if there is a causal relationship between the emotional injury and the work events.
Are You Stressed at Work?
If an unordinary workplace event impacts your mental well-being, you should see a doctor immediately. You should document the event(s) and notify your employer as soon as you realize that you are symptomatic. Some emotional injuries develop over time. In these cases, document your symptoms as soon as you become aware of your disability. Most importantly, you should also contact an attorney at Keches Law Group to seek advice as to whether a workers’ compensation claim is appropriate. The point is that workers’ compensation has expanded from the antiquated days when compensation was limited to physical injuries. Today, with the medical developments in mental health, the law has evolved to recognize that there are more than just physical injuries that develop in the workplace. If you are reading this article and have experienced an emotional work injury please contact our office for advice from an experienced attorney at Keches Law Group to determine if you are entitled to workers’ compensation.
If you or a loved one is suffering due to stress at work, contact Keches Law Group at 617-898-0808 or online for a free, no-obligation consultation today. We will be happy to meet you at one of our conveniently located offices or at your home.