California laws may allow you to collect compensation due to on-the-job stress. If a chronic, stressful work environment is causing you psychological or physical damage, a workers’ compensation lawyer may be able to collect compensation on your behalf. Workers’ compensation laws are in place to protect employees from injuries they suffer while on the job.
While you cannot claim a workers’ compensation claim based entirely on stress, ongoing stress can lead to certain medical conditions, as well as psychological disorders.
What Are California’s Workers’ Compensation Laws?
The state of California requires employers to carry workers’ compensation. This protects employees in the event that they either suffer a one-time injury, or they become injured after repeated exposure to a dangerous risk. Workplace injuries can lead to ongoing medical costs and the inability to work, making employee compensation crucial.
Workers’ compensation does require an actual injury to occur. This means that stress cannot be the result of the injury. Stress is considered a reaction to an injury. For example, if you slip and fall and break your arm, ongoing stress may be one of the outcomes. If you develop an infection after exposure to a dangerous chemical, you are likely to experience stress as you undergo medical treatment and determine how you will earn income.
California laws require employers to compensate employees for work-related injuries through the workers’ compensation policy. This also includes psychological injuries that may be due to stress.
In order to claim workers’ compensation benefits in California, employees will need to meet a few criteria:
- You must have been employed for a minimum of six months with the specific employer at the time of the incident.
- You have evidence that your injury/condition is due to work-related events. (With a minimum of 51% fault).
- Your condition must not have been caused by realistic expectations or criticism from your employer.
- Your psychological condition cannot be due to the lawsuit itself.
- Your psychiatric condition must be approved by a physician. This includes a thorough medical report from a qualified professional.
- You must have filed your workers’ compensation claim after your job was terminated, or your employer knew of the injury, or condition, before termination.
It is important to follow all California workers’ compensation claim requirements to ensure that you are eligible for benefits.
What Types of Stress Occur in the Workplace?
The type of stress will often depend on your type of employment and your expected job responsibilities. A few examples of workplace stress might include:
- Frequent exposure to a dangerous chemical
- Unrealistic expectations in the workplace
- Repeated customer abuse
- Long work hours that lead to stressed body parts
Workplace injuries can also lead to workplace stress.
What Type of Injuries Can Occur from Workplace Stress?
Injuries from workplace stress can be physical or psychological in nature. Stress can lead to physical conditions, like hypertension and gastrointestinal disorders. A physical personal injury could lead to secondary stress. Stressful work environments can also lead to psychological conditions, including:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
- Major depressive disorder
- Panic disorder
In order to file a workers’ compensation, claim for a stress-related psychological disorder, it must be listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV).
What Other Options Are Available for Managing a Stressful Work Environment?
If your workplace environment has become so stressful that is has begun to affect your health, you may have other options available. Even if workers’ compensation denies your claim, you may have the following options available:
- Discuss your concerns with your supervisor: Discussing your workplace concerns with your supervisor may offer you stress-relief options.
- Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA): FMLA allows employees to take unpaid time off from work to deal with a family or medical issue.
- California Family Rights Act (CFRA): CFRA allows employees to take up to 12 weeks of paid or unpaid leave.
- Consider whether your employment rights are being violated: If you believe that workplace stress is the cause of your psychological condition, then it may be beneficial to discuss your case with a California workers’ compensation lawyer.
California state laws require employers to offer access to these programs to their employees, without retribution. Denying leave, requesting that employees come back from leave early, or being harmful or intimidating to employees for using these benefits is illegal and the employer can be liable for a lawsuit.
Should I Hire a Lawyer for Stress-Related Injuries?
Stress-related workers’ compensation claims can be complicated. Unlike with a physical injury, you must demonstrate that the work conditions were the cause of your psychological condition. For this reason, it is a good idea to work with a workers’ compensation lawyer who is familiar with California’s injury laws.
Most of us have experienced stress at work on at least one occasion. But how much is too much stress? Is your stress due to your own need to do well or your perfectionist expectations? Or is it due to a dangerous work environment that could impact your overall health?
Our workers’ compensation lawyers will help you evaluate the details of your case to determine whether your stress-related injury qualifies. We will also help you gather necessary evidence to build your case. This includes medical records, a physician statement, witness reports, expert witness testimony, job performance reviews, income statements, psychological test reports, and any other pieces of evidence that might help your case.
Filing a workers’ compensation claim based on a psychological condition is not easy. While psychological injuries can be just as life changing as a physical injury, they are not as easy to prove. However, our knowledgeable lawyers will work to demonstrate the many ways in which your condition has affected you. If you were denied, then you also have the right to appeal. Our lawyers can help you with the process to improve your chances of workers’ compensation accepting your claim.