Are Emotional or Mental Problems Covered by Workers Compensation?

It’s not uncommon for someone to joke that their job or co-workers are driving them crazy, but what’s not funny is the rise of stress-related work injuries. The OECD even has designated the term Occupational Stress Disorder to describe them. Even if you don’t work in a high-stress occupation like medicine, the military or law enforcement, work-related emotional or mental disorders that qualify for workers compensation are more common than you think.

What Are the Issues Related to Claiming Occupational Stress Disorder?

The main problem is that mental or emotional problems aren’t as easy to identify as physical injuries. Often, someone who is suffering is reluctant to come forward due to the stigma, a hostile atmosphere at work or fear of losing their job. A crisis or an injury at work due to the mental impairment may happen before the person suffering with this condition gets an evaluation.

As far as evaluation by workers comp insurance investigators, they use the criteria set forth by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, but the employee must see a mental health professional for a diagnosis first. Problems at home or in the employee’s personal life and a previous history of psychiatric problems are also taken into consideration.

Cases of permanent disability due to work-related stress are difficult to win unless they lead to a secondary physical health problem, such as heart attack. The assumption is that the condition will go away once you leave the environment that caused it. At best, most people receive compensation for treatment while they take a leave of absence. Unfortunately, this option isn’t viable for many jobs.

What Are the Responsibilities of Employers?

Under employment law, employers have a legal responsibility for the health and welfare their employees. They must provide a safe workplace, adequate staff to handle the workload and sufficient training. Many managers will make a referral to their HR department, who may encourage the employee to get counseling if emotional problems are suspected. Other than that, there isn’t mush support available for persons outside of larger corporations or those in occupations that are at high risk for stress and mental disorders.

What Conditions Are Covered?

Employers don’t have a specific legal duty to safeguard the mental health of staff members beyond providing a safe work environment and reasonable work hours. In cases where there was a traumatic event on the job, such as the death of a staff member at work, witnessing an accident at work or workplace violence, most companies will see that all affected staff members have access to counseling.

The good news is that Occupational Stress disorders are become so problematic that many companies are taking steps to intervene before they become debilitating enough to interfere with safety or job performance. The most common conditions are:

– Chronic panic disorder
– Anxiety disorder
– Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
– Depression

Stress-related ailments are becoming one of the top work injuries, and they’re the most common reason for long-term absenteeism. However, proving them is difficult. Often the burden of proof is on the sufferer. If you have one of these conditions, and you can prove that it’s related to your job or work environment, a workers compensation lawyer like James Hoffman attorney can advice you on how to proceed. Find a law office that handles workplace injuries to evaluate your case today.