Stress at Work
Most of us find work more stressful than sitting at home watching television. Even the greatest job sometimes comes with annoying co-workers, impossible deadlines, angry customers, picky bosses…the workplace is full of stressors. But what if that stress starts to cause physical harm and even a diagnosed stress illness? For North Carolina workers who experience stress at work, it is important to know the difference between normal levels of stress and the type of stress that qualifies for workers’ compensation benefits. The failure to file a stress claim on time may leave a worker without options.
Consider the following questions from the workers’ compensation attorneys at Ricci Law Firm:
Did you experience an event causing PTSD?
In North Carolina, an injured worker can be compensated under the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act for a mental injury caused by either a compensable occupational disease or an injury by accident. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is recognized as a legal occupational disease under the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act. PTSD can occur to any worker, not just workers in high-stress occupations. For a stress disease such as PTSD to be compensable in North Carolina, the worker must prove a causal connection between the disease and the employment.
Importantly, the worker must prove that the PTSD (or other mental illness or injury) was due to stresses or conditions different from those experienced by the general public. A common example is a victim of a workplace assault or robbery developing PTSD afterward. In some cases, workers who witness or observe the traumatic injury or death of a co-worker may also be covered.
Is your field unusually stressful?
Even without a traumatic event, employees often develop stress-related conditions simply due to the nature of a highly stressful job or field. If you develop a stress-related condition due to work in a high-stress field such as emergency medical personnel, law enforcement, or even teaching (in some cases), you may have a valid workers’ compensation claim. The important legal question will be whether the job contributed to the development of your stress-related disease. The attorneys at Ricci Law Firm can help you determine if your condition is likely to be compensable.
Did you endure stress or harassment for an extended period?
The #MeToo movement is creeping into North Carolina workers’ compensation claims. Right now, the appellate case law is split about whether workplace sexual harassment causing emotional injury may be filed as a workers’ compensation claim. Generally, when a worker develops a stress-related condition due sexual harassment, the claim does not fall under workers’ compensation but must be filed in civil court. However, some recent federal cases suggest that, if a claim stems from the employer’s negligent mishandling or investigation of a harassment complaint, then the claim may be filed under workers’ compensation. If you were harassed at work, an experienced attorney can review your case and advise you how to proceed.
Stress claims in North Carolina vary widely, and the attorneys at Ricci Law Firm may be able to help you determine if you have a valid workers’ compensation stress claim.