Safety and OSHA News

Should employee get workers’ comp for anxiety?

An employee says she was harassed at work, and that caused her “mental injury.” She applied for workers’ comp payments.

Employees can receive comp for mental injuries at work under certain circumstances.

In this case, Laila Young said she was harassed at work after September 11, 2001 because of her Egyptian ethnicity. The company fired her in April 2003.

Young claims she was:

  • cursed at
  • struck in the head by one of her co-workers
  • subjected to offensive anti-Arab cartoons that were placed on a bulletin board
  • repeatedly ignored and belittled by her supervisor in front of others, and
  • asked by her supervisor if she had turned her family in to the FBI.

Her employer, Pentax Precision Instrument Corp., provided witness testimony that told a different story.

There were direct denials of Young’s accusations and reasonable explanations of others.

The company also showed that when Young had complaints, it dealt with them promptly.

Add to all this that Young had been transferred within the company in 1998 because of problems interacting with co-workers. Some of those problems persisted, according to testimony.

Two doctors, two different opinions

Young presented testimony from her doctor that her anxiety and stress were related to harassment at work. However, an independent medical exam performed by the employer’s doctor found no causal relationship between her anxiety and work.

A workers’ comp law judge, the state workers’ comp board and finally the state supreme court all ruled in the company’s favor. The court found no reason to reverse the board’s previous judgment that the company’s testimony was more credible.

In its ruling, the New York Supreme Court noted that if a claimant can show that stress that caused an injury was “greater than that which other similarly situated workers experienced in the normal work environment,” then the employee can receive workers’ comp.

In this case, Young wasn’t able to show that.

You can read the court’s decision here.

Should employees be able to get workers’ comp for stress on the job? Let us know in the Comments Box below.

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  • Bill

    In a case like this, yes. But you need to prove your case. It’s to bad that she couldn’t prove her case though. Given what happened (911), and her being Egyptian, what she said probably happened.

  • SafeTman

    I don’t think there is a single employee who should be allowed to file a comp claim for stress on the job. Every job has stress, whether a prospective employee knows it or not. If a person gets hired and finds the job itself is too stressful, tell your supervisor your concerns, and see how they’re dealt with. If they cannot reduce the stress, or refuse to make efforts to do so, go find a different job. It’s that simple!

  • Mary Jackson

    I think a worker should receive comp for anixity caused by their job. Unless you have lived it you have no idea what it is like and how it change your life. It is a hard thing to prove since it builds with time. To me it is no different than injurying yourself on the job

  • Bill

    Hey SafeTman, you sound like one of those inconsiderate people who probably would have harassed her. So sad.

  • Sam

    This sounds more like an employment practices liability claim. Why her attorney went after the workers compensation policy is questionable. A bigger pot of money would have been found in the “wrongful termination, discrimination, and harrassment” game. As far as collecting under Workers Compensation it was a big stretch.

  • Kim

    In reference to what SafeTman said I believe that stress at the workplace is much different than being harassed by your co-workers and/or supervisors. Harassment is prohibited by law and if she suffered anxiety due to this harassment, she should be able to claim that under workman’s compensation. I agree totally with Bill, her story more than likely happened just as she said, too bad she couldn’t prove it.

  • Tom

    Give me a break!!!!! I guess the fact this was proven false that we now find a way to pay people for being put into positions like LIFE that they can not cope with? I want comp for having to deal with these same people and having to put up with their whining attitudes!
    I quess next I should get comp because the company paid me and I used the money to eat to much got a case of a bad heart becuse of all the food and had a heart attack. Get real people life is tough and we move on.

  • http://www.bariumchemicals.com Linda Yanok

    I do believe that Workers Comp should be extended to those employees that experience anxiety due to the job. As Ms. Jackson stated, unless one has lived it no one can explain how the constant nagging, yelling, criticism, etc can effect a person’s psyche. This is something that is very difficult to prove because so many employers and human resource departments do not recognize or allow for any sort of anxiety to be a part of worker compensation claim. For some reason mental illness is never discussed openly which is a shame. Mental illness is real and people work, live and carry on each and every day coping with such issues. Rather than critizize and chastise employers should be educated and learn compassion.

  • William Ferry

    PTSD and Generalized Anxiety Disorder are legitimate and verifiable diagnoses and should be permitted as a valid basis for disability claims. However, the employee must demonstrate a causal link to the disorder that flows directly from the workplace event or workplace injury. Additionally, the disorder must be so severe as to interfere with the ability of the individual to carry out major life functions and duties. The basic stress of going to work that starts with the morning alarm clock would not be a valid basis for claims.

    While being of Arab descent and living in the USA following 9/11 could be contributory to several anxiety disorders, others of non-Arab descent are also affected by that tragedy. It would be difficult to attribute all anxiety from 9/11 to the workplace; the comparator is as the Court rightly notes: the claim is valid if the employee is more severely affected by the disorder than other like situated employees and can demonstrae that causal linkage.

  • http://safetynewsalert think safety

    I personally went through something similar, although my issues were not due to racial issues, but gender. I endured berating from my supervisor on a daily basis and at times he became hostile and intimidating and then when I was making a report of a sexual harrassment concern with another supervisor and his employee issue to HR and he walked in, and unfortunately he heard enough to demand that I tell him what I was reporting because he was my supervisor and he had a right to know what his employees where reporting, and when I finally told him he informed me I was making a huge mistake…then once the company investigated the situation and called in witnesses and the other supervisor was terminated he proceeded to scream at me from his office where there are only men and accuse me of railroading this other supervisor…needless to say everyone else heard and unfortunately all they heard was his opinion of what happened and not the fact that the other supervisor was physically sexually harrassing this employee daily and there were numerous witnesses to prove it. I was blackballed and finally made the decision for my health(which hurt my family financially) to quit. Interesting when the supervisor who was fired tried to apply for unemployment and was denied by the local court and also the state court due to the number of witnesses and the fact that he had a history of doing this. Sadly my old supervisor is still employed there and he only received a talking to by HR and the VP when I reported it…unfortunately, the damage had already been done. Some day I plan find the courage to tell the President the horrible things he accused me of and how he put down the company…I can assure you he would not be employed long after that. I just wish I had taken this further, but I was too scared of what it would cause my family to go through. This supervisor is very vengeful, and other employees who have attempted to make complaints have had damage to their cars done, or either fired or quit because they have had to endure him.

    So now off my soapbox…I think there are times when employees work under hostile environments and sadly the companies find ways to sweep it under the rug. Sometimes it is just easier to get rid of the employee than the supervisor. The laws are there to keep companies like this honest, and unfortunately she was unable to prove her claims…and mostly it is a he said she said, and those are a hard case to prove in court.

  • Tom

    Probably , maybe , could have??? The facts in this case shows that this person had a history of not being able to get along with co-workers. I agree that if what was eledge had taken place that she would deserve a harassment claim, my guess is if we heard the rest of the story that she more then likely lost that case based on no merrit. Think about it why would you start with comp unless the rest of the areas for a claim were denied. we have laws that protect us from harrassment in the work place, and no that doesnt mean that it still wont happen or that we feel bad about it, but this unproven case does not warrent workers comp and if proven would have neted a settlement for harassment. My first love broke my heart but I moved on and found a new love.
    This lady needs to do the same and if this continues for her then she should seek professional help outside of a labor lawyer.

  • Ed

    I wonder how you would feel if this harassment happened to your wife day in and day out. Bill’s right.

  • Shawn

    Should employees be able to get workers’ comp for stress on the job? This is the question and I would say it depends. All jobs have some level of stress. I have to say I once worked for a CEO that I believe caused my anxiety therefore I had to take prescription medication, once she was gone I was able to get off the meidcation. However this CEO created an unpleasant work envirornment and that is where the issue stemmed from. I believe if the employee can show their due diligence of an unpleasant work environement that lead them to taking anxiety med’s then yes maybe the employer should be held responsible because the stress is what led to the anxiety in my case. So again it just depends.

  • http://safetynewsalert think safety

    Wow Tom! Just read your reply to the article! Yeah life does throw you curve balls, but going to work dealing with issues she was experiencing are not easy, obviously you are on the giving side and not the receiving. Good luck to you in the future you sound like a real pleasant person to work with.

  • Bill

    Tom, you to sound like SafeTman, inconsiderate of others. This was not about a first love, or any love. This is something that could have lead to hate crimes against her and her employer would have been to blame.

  • John

    Having been involved in many workers compensation cases I can say from experience that proving her case is made difficult when there are no facts to support her case, and the other evidence refutes her evidence. Bill and Kim seem to be able to ignore the evidence presented by both sides and come to their assumptions without even needing to see the facts or ignoring them. A pretty nifty trick. Another nifty trick would be to get rid of the judge, court, attorneys and just have somebody in a striped shirt flip a coin and call the winners or losers, saving everybody time and trouble.

  • Tom

    Funny Ed that you should mention that, my wife was harrased after an unfortunate fall on ice at her employers buisness. We used the system for what it is used for and filed comp for her INJURY’S, if she would have been able to PHYSICALLY been able to performs her job duties and been harrassed then we would have seeked a claim for job HARRASSMENT not workers comp. This is very easy to seperate and while this type of behavior exist it is all of our jobs to step up and complain about it. It sounds like in this case witness’s proved her story untrue. Why is that so difficult to accept?

  • Legal22

    If she was WF harassed at work by a balck man she would have won. Some of your comments are out of line.

  • Bill

    Who’s to say that maybe all those witnesses were against her because she was Egyptian. The employer themselves were probably against her working there after what happened on 9/11. Nobody just makes up what was happening to her. And Tom maybe she just filed the wrong claim by accident after everything happening to her. I still think if she could have proved it she should be paid comp.

  • Patrick

    Everyone is making assumptions about the guilt of the company. Why does everyone believe she was telling the truth. You don’t know her, the facts, or the company. Dont’ you think it’s possible that the system worked? That’s what it looks like to me. The company was cleared of any wrongdoing in court all the way to the State Supreme Court. Why isn’t that good enough?

    Get a clue and get a life. Companyies are not the root of all evil. Some, like every one that I have every worked for, have integrity and treat employees with respect and dignity.

  • Boyd

    SafeTman and Ed are the natural wonders of this unnatural world. Comments like “just quit your whining or just get another job” are typical of mindless misfits who think any comments, questions of authority, disaggreement, or harrassment is perfectly normal in the workplace as long as the boss doesn’t see it. Why wouldn’t an employee simply leave a job if they were being harassed? It could possibly be that they like the work or the hours fit there needs or it’s close to their home. In today’s economy where would you start looking for another job? Supervisors who harrass are the problem not the employee taking it. As mentioned by someone else previously it is often the employee that is dismissed rather than a long term supervisor. That’s too bad. This case seems pretty clear cut that harrassment was going on. I think it really is too bad she didn’t have the documentation or witnesses to prove it. That probably goes to her nationality and the co-workers who were afraid of the supervisor as well. The good thing about SafeTman and Ed is that when harrassed employees who are fired/and or quit their job come back to the workplace they have a specific target to kill. The rest of us can rest comfortably knowing that natural selection does work.

  • Tom

    Bill & Think safety
    I think you need to as I did read the court document in this case. I would like to set something straight in your assumptions and comments above. Actually I am a very good manager to work for according to my co-workers. Because I do take action against those who do harrass employees. I work hard to make sure people are treated fair and honest, the differance here is that I do not turn my head and ignore those who try to use the system based on assumptions with out fact.

  • Eric Radke

    “Stress” is probably a better term than “anxiety.” A lot of it depends on what jurisdiction the claim is in. Some states alow stress claims, some don’t. For example, in CA it is allowed if the employee has been employed by the employer for at least a year, and if the alleged stress condition was 51% or greater the result of work exposure.

    Should it ever be an allowable condition? If a person is so disposed that stress can be a dishabilitating condition and it is caused by factors at work that are outside the normal realm of what should be considered stress factors, then the employee has been injured. Some people are more fragile than others, but we get employees as they come to us, good or bad, and sometimes it costs us. It is not for those of us who may be stronger to judge this or the person filing the claim. It is up to the treating doctors. If accepted, it is up to us to manage the claim and tryand ekliminate the contrbuting factors.

  • Tasheena

    You’ve got to be kidding me. Sue the employer over harassment lady, but instead you try to claim it as a work comp case? Foolish, foolish woman. It’s this kind of crap that is costing employers so much money. If this type of thing is allowed under work comp what’s next? LOL I can’t wait to see the claims start rolling in from investment bankers who lost their clients MILLIONS and are getting stressed out because they’re having to deal with angry investors. Or wait, how about the person at the office who does everything in the 11th hour and the boss starts pushing on them because they’re consistently missing their deadlines? Better get work comp for that too. Everyone wants something for nothing and our silly laws are making it so easy for them to do just that. Its a hardly a wonder that jobs have been outsourced to different countries, who wants to deal with employing Americans.

    As a registered Native American, female, Corporate Accountant, you can’t imagine all the comments I’ve heard over the years. I’ve never sued anyone over harassment, just confronted the issues and for the record, I got here strictly on my credentials, not because of some affirmative action law.

  • Ed

    Boyd, I said nothing that would tie me in with SafeTman. I was agreeing with Bill. Get your facts straight.

  • Ms Safety Girl

    Playing Devil’s advocate here.

    Lets say you are put into this position. You have harassed someone like the claims of Ms. Young. Do you honestly think you as the harasser is going to speak the truth about what exactly you had done to this woman? I’m all about what is right is right, but unfortunately not everybody shares my opinion. I believe it would be twisted in such a manner that you could make it look like it was her fault. Think about it. Lets say you were her supervisor and you repeatedly ignored and belittle her in front of others. Do you really think you are going to go in to a court system and say. “Oh yeah I ignored her and was condescending and made her feel in adequate.? No, I don’t think so. You risk losing your job as well as both you and the company getting sued. And the others that supposedly witnessed this, they could either jumped on the band wagon or for fear of losing their jobs could have very easily said, “I don’t know what she is talking about.” So, was this woman represented fairly? Who is to say.

  • Patrick

    God help us! I’ve changed my response to NO. Under no condition should stress at work be eligible for workers comp. If work is too stressful, quit and get another job. Period! You guys want to destroy business. Grow a pair and deal with your stress! I’m getting sick and tired of your bash the business attitude. Whatever happened to personal responsibility? Businesses are required to create a clean, safe, harrassment free environment in which to work. Now, according to most of you, business is also responsible for creating a stress free environment as well! We will all soon be speaking French!! (Not to mention double digit unemployment!)

    This is America! Land of the free and home of the brave. Doesn’t sound like there are very many brave people left.

  • SAFETYMAX

    She could not prove her case but that does not mean that the harassment and anxiety did not happen. She just did not have sufficient evidence. I agree that this case is more about harassment but if she would have been going to the doctor and had built a track of medical treatment for her anxiety it may have had a different judgment in court.

    Employers must be held accountable for the work environment they provide. Employees go through anxiety all the time at work for one reason or another. Some more than others but employers do have a responsibility to provide a fair work environment for their employees.

    Unfortunately there are still many companies out there that just ignore their management problems.
    SafeTman says, “If a person gets hired and finds the job itself is too stressful, tell your supervisor your concerns, and see how they’re dealt with. If they cannot reduce the stress, or refuse to make efforts to do so, go find a different job. It’s that simple!”
    Well, It Is Not That Simple. If your problem is with the supervisor to begin with, how could the employee go the supervisor?! and if you have a supervisor who doesn’t’ do anything about the situation, you tell them to pack-up and leave?! The entire workforce is U.S. would be switching jobs weekly if we were to do that!! In this particular case, the supervisor should have removed the cartoons and had a talk with everyone or HR should have been notified to control the situation.

    Supervisors, Managers and even us who are in the safety profession have a responsibility not to ignore these problems but get more involved. Remember if employees are having more anxiety at work, there are usually more questionable WC cases filed. Our profession places a lot of importance on back injuries and MSD cases. Are doctors able to prove in every case that employee is TRUELY injured? Of course not, but we still accept it and try to prevent hazards at work that create such injuries. Shouldn’t we consider obvious behaviors that cause anxiety for employees a hazard at workplace and try to prevent them from recurring?

    SAFETY, PART OF THE SOLUTION!

  • http://safetynewsalert think safety

    Tom, I’m glad to hear you feel that you treat your employee’s fairly, but given the comments you made in your earlier post made me think as though you are insensitive to the people who have endured this type of situation. Yes, unfortunately there are many who have tried and many succeeded at using the system, or should I say manipulate the system to their benifit. I have not read the court documents of this particular case, my opinions were based on the general subject of whether an employee should receive work comp for working in a hostile environment…and I say yes! Sadly, it is hard to prove because unless there are physical marks or even witnesses it will never happen. Work Comp should pay, working in this type of setting can cause depression, unnecessary stress, and anxiety all of which are a medical illness and medical illness caused by work should be included on the OSHA Log.

    Tom, I hope you are as great a manager as you think you are, I guess your the one who has to look in the mirror every day.

  • http://safetynewsalert think safety

    Tasheena, you sound like a person who has worked hard to be in the place you are today, and kudos for that. Obviously, you don’t take any ? from anyone, so you obviously haven’t found yourself in the shoes of those who have, and I’m telling you it stinks…during all the time I endured my hostile working environment (see previous post) I lost my Dad and had to sit there while my supervisor informed me that taking off the day Hospice was coming and to take my son to see him wouldn’t do any good because he was dying anyway… my Dad died that night. So sometimes we all need to learn to step back and look at the entire picture, yeah there are people who work the system and she very well could have, but then there are the people who endure it day after day, year after year who never do anything about it, other than to leave.

  • Bill

    Tasheena, Did you read the subject matter? She was belittled in front of others by her supervisor, physically struck in the head by another employee at work, cursed at, etc. I’m sure if you were struck you wouldn’t just take it. And it also said nothing about sueing to better herself. Get with the program.

  • Mark

    Job stress is a reality. Air traffic controllers, firemen, police officers, and military personnell are required to retire before the normal retirement age of 67 (for me).

  • Don Mack in Louisiana

    WHAT IS HAPPENING TO THIS CRAZY WORLD? IS THERE ANYONE OUT THERE NOT LOOKING FOR A HANDOUT? NO WONDER WE ARE GOING TO HELL IN A HANDBASKET AS A NATION! IF THE LADY WAS DOING HER JOB AND MAKING A CONTRIBUTION TO THE BOTTOM LINE, IT WOULDN’T HAVE BEEN AN ISSUE WITH ANY EMPLOYER WORTH WORKING FOR; SHE COULD BE BLACK, WHITE ORANGE PINK OR GREEN, FROM ANY RACE, AND I WOULD TREASURE HER AND FIGHT LIKE HELL FOR HER PLACE IN THE COMPANY. TOO MANY PEOPLE IN THIS CRYBABY NATION DON’T KNOW BEANS ABOUT WHAT IT TAKES TO BE A GOOD PRODUCTIVE EMPLOYEE AND AS A RESULT WE INFLUENCE IMMIGRANTS TO ACT JUST LIKE WE DO. WE HAD BETTER STRAIGNTEN UP QUICK OR NONE OF WILL HAVE ANYONE TO WORK FOR. THE FORMER 3RD WORLD NATIONS ARE LICKING THEIR CHOPS FOR WHAT WE ARE CASUALLY TOSSING AWAY WHAT OUR TROOPS HAVE FOUGHT TO PRESERVE. GOD HELP US, DON MACK IN LOUISIANA

  • Tom

    Legal 22
    Whats the matter you cant spell WHITE FEMALE??? I see you cant spell BLACK? What is a balck man anyway? Is this your way of making fun of full figured people? Wow you can twist this most anyway cant we??? This went into three courts and all these people were willing to lie in court I guess??? Wow seems like a lot of people really wanting to make sure this boss kept his job.

    Tasheena and Patrick hit the point dead on!!!

  • Kim

    Dear John, I didn’t ignore the evidence, I simple stated that it more than likely happened like she said but too bad she couldn’t prove it. Companies have many more resources when it comes to fighting their sides as opposed to a single employee. Also, this was not just about stress at her job, this was a case with specific incidents of physical, mental and emotional harassment (I can’t imagine what she felt when she was asked if she turned her family into the FBI?!?!) But I agree if she wasn’t able to prove her case that she shouldn’t win compensation, but why not open up your mind to the fact that this type of behavior day in and day out could have caused her mental injury. And let’s not forget the number of studies that show the brain does respond to emotional pain in much the same way as it responds to physical pain.

  • Bill

    Well, I guess Tom it’s alright to hit employees? Maybe that is the way you handle things where you work. I pity your employees.

  • Ms Safety Girl

    OK, the truth be known, I too have been harassed by coworkers. I work with predominately men. As a result of numerous complaints agains our HR Manager, that is right the HR Manager, he was finally let go. I don’t know the reason why, but was told it was sexual harassment. I was not invovled in that, but was also being sexually harassed by him. Besides the little things that I had put up with from that Manager I have experienced from a relatively new manager, listening to is sexual exploitations from when he was in college. Telling us girls what race of girl he has done. Taking every opportunity possible to belittle me in front of other employees, making me sound inadequate to do my job. I have had other managers come to me and tell me how he has lied to make me look bad and make himself look better. I have confronted him when I have over heard him tell upper management as well as customers that I didn’t know what I was doing, when in fact it was him. He of course has lied to my face. Another girl and I have had to put up with him going to the backs of our desks while and having him lean over top of us, breathing in our ear (making full body contact) looking at our screen. He has made many many rude comments to me. I was even asked by the other girl where I work, why he is so mean to me all the time, because he does not treat her the same way. He has showed favoritism, by allowing her to take extra time off and get paid, but when I even ask to take extra time and make it up, he says no. He has publically humiliated me in front of other employees several times. He usually interupts any conversation business or personal that I am having and disregards the fact I was speaking. The list goes on. This has been going on for two years now, and unfortunately I do not have an allie one. Loads of witnessess. He has made reference to the clothes I wear, good and bad. Like “My grandmother called and she wants her dress back.” Or “no offense but you look hot in that”. How about you look nice today. End it there. The list goes on. Two years of pure hell!

  • Boyd

    My apologies Ed. That was a mistake on my part. I was referring to Tom at 2:17. “Gimme a break”

  • Ms Safety Girl

    Don,

    I don’t think anybody is looking for a handout, I think they would just like to go to work and not have to worry about being harassed on a daily basis or better yet to be safe. Don’t get me wrong there are people out there that will try anything for a buck. As you probably read already I put up with the same kind of stuff daily. It does get very stressful, but I am not in a position where I can leave my job and with the way things are right now in our economy I’m certainly not going to take a chance on losing the only income I currently have. So what do I do, I suck it up. Not everybody can do that. My life isn’t being threatened and nobody has hit me thus far. I will draw the line at that. I believe this woman had a hard case to prove as many harassment cases are. Too bad she didn’t seek the right avenues.

  • http://safetynewsalert think safety

    Don Mack, you are correct firemen, police, paramedics, etc. do endure a lot of stress on the job…how many have taken their lives for it…hmmm? Guess stress on the job is difficult and can cause depression. I value and respect those who are in those careers, and have numerous friends who have followed that field, not to mention nurses in my family who work ER. The good news is that these people have many outlets for their stress, which they may utilize while on the clock. I know that they have regular psychological appointments and from experience know that when there is a trauma that is close to them they are numerous resources provided for them. Our regular blue collar worker isn’t provided these outlets, and maybe that isn’t necessary but to compare them to our public service people is like comparing apples to oranges…how many of them have their bosses towering over them daily telling them they are worthless. My guess not that many, and not to mention they are prepared during their training for the horrific things they may experience, don’t get me wrong I’m not sure if anyone could be prepared for what many of them have seen, but they know going into it what the risks are. Then not to mention when they have those rewarding situations when they saved a life.

  • http://safetynewsalert think safety

    Legal 22, you were out of line posting a comment like that. Don’t make this something it isn’t. Race and gender did play a role in this case…and being, black, red, yellow, green, male or female whatever the skin tone no one should be physically attacked or verbally abused because of their heritage.

  • SafeTcajun

    Well, Dear Abby there only tells one side of the story.

    Honestly guys and girls, you of all people should know there are two sides to every story. We need more information to make comments. If we are going to be expected to make assumptions, then each person’s assumptions are going to be different.

    She might be the most innocent one ever, and it was wrong, shame on you mean old employer. Or, she might have been celebrating after the attack on our country, and no actions were taken against her in any way, and she is just upset because Anglo Americans exist and, if she can harm the employer by suing, why not. If the second set of assumptions is correct, shame on her.

    Until you know all the facts shame on you for personally attaching the opposite views.

    BTW, if you want to attack me for my comments, “Go ahead, make my day”!

  • Rich

    I believe that a employee if able to “prove” harm should be eligible for compensation. I would not step out there and accuse either the employee making the claim nor the witnesses who dispute the claim of Lying.
    In my HR career I have seen both, employees making false claims and managers/co-workers lying to cover their own or anothers unexcusable behavior.
    An off subject anology would be my dad, married 5 times, every time to a lousy wife…
    the only thing each marrage had in common was him…
    Patterns are often a valuable thing to look at. Harrassers will not stop with just one person, even though in this case the driving claim was ethnicity. Harrassers by nature will move on to another victim once the current one is removed. In this day and age it still amazingly happens but with companies trying to mitigate their liabilty many HR departments do watch for repeat offenders, even those that are found innocent. And proactive training for all employees of the process your company uses to record/report and follow-up on claims of harrassment is always a companies best defense.
    Posting your companies complaint and resolution procedures does not encourage more complaints but puts everyone on notice that there are consequences for actions.

  • Matt W

    This is a problem that should be decided on a case by case basis. My past experiences with employees has taught me that different people will take a confrontation with another person more personal and to heart while others will brush it off and not be affected by it. To one person an argument will affect them mentally and be nervous and may take weeks to get over it. To another person the same argument will not affect them at all. If a person is not mentally strong a small comment will cause a lot of mental anguish. Some people do take a small comment and blow it out of proportion while others go way too far. I have had employees that make a big problem out of something that was not ment to be offensive.

  • Ken

    We’re all under some stress on a job. Should we all be on workers comp? Sure, why not; the machines can run themselves while we all sit at home on workers comp!

  • Safety First

    Our workers comp and harassment laws were designed to protect the employees not the employers so if she lost it wasn’t because the law was not on her side. Any opinion based off of this article would be an uninfored one, only one side of the story is presented.

  • Steve

    When an employee experiences stress caused by the unlawful actions of others, that employee is entitled to compensation BUT also retains the burden of proof required by whatever statute is used as the basis for the claim. If this employee had been able to present sufficient evidence to support her claim, then she should have received compensation. In this case, the employer prevailed by demonstrating their compliance with the law more convincingly than she could challenge. i can only hope justice was served, but my personal experiences tell me the ones with the better lawyers (and greater financial resources) won.

  • NEB

    I first want to start out by answering the question that was asked: Yes, there are instances of harassment, anxiety, etc that should be compensable. No one should be subjected to an atmosphere at work that affects their mental health.

    I have seen it both ways in my career. Some cases are clear cut that an individual, or individuals are creating a hostile workplace. However, in other cases, some people just don’t get along with others. Some individuals have to take responsibility for their own actions since they are part of the cause. Is a company or other entity really responsible just because two people don’t play well together?

    Ms. Safety Girl, if you are being treated as you say there is no reason to just put up with it. Forget about worker’s compensation, you have witnesses and strong sexual harassment laws backing you. I can’t imagine going to work every day and dealing with that. Talk to your HR department, or if they are part of the problem, a lawyer.

    Many of the first comments in this blog made are absolutely shocking to me. This case was disproven in a court of law. It is a sad statement that the first comment that is made was “what she said probably happened” A supreme court said it wasn’t a compensable case. Is that not enough that the Supreme Court decision stated “The record contains substantial evidence to support the Board’s decision and, accordingly, we affirm. Claimant’s remaining arguments are either academic or meritless.” ??? Before making assertions that something is valid or not, it is best to read all the facts, understand and then judge…not just assume because your gut tells you something is true.

  • RP

    Just because a case is not proven does not mean that it has no basis in fact. I witnessed a case in which a woman who was a whiner and a general pain to work with was then harrassed by her coworkers in retaliation, and they often teased her to the point of tears and hysterics. If this case had gone to arbitration or court, proving that she was a difficult personality would have been easy, and that would have made proving the harrassment by her coworkers very difficult. But, her pain and mistreatment were real. We make a mistake if we require victims to be pure and innocent. Meanwhile, think about military veterans. More than half of all disabilities are for mental problems. Psychological disabilities are real and provable. The sad fact is if given a choice between a harrassment claim and workman’s comp, a WC claim is resolved much more quickly.

  • Harold

    Everyone remember, it not only states their was verbal harrasment that caused the anxiety. There was also physical abuse. IF SHE COULD HAVE DONE A BETTER JOB PROVING HER CASE, THEN SHE SHOULD BE COMPENSATED. This is not simple teasing harassment like Toms wife when she fell on the ice. Nor is it sexual harassment (which is worst than the teasing). This is an hateful, dangerous harassment against her and her family which could lead to serious injury. And it’s not the employers fault for winning the case. It’s the employers fault for not having the insight and letting it happen in the first place. Things like this happened everywhere thru-out America after 911 so you can be sure it happened there.

  • Ms Safety Girl

    This is a great question. I agree that it should be a case by case situation. I believe that people are affected differently by diffent things. Going to work in a hostile environment is horrible (as I have mentioned). I believe that some people bring it on themselves, and sometimes it is just simply an over exageration or that person is way too sensitive. In such cases they should follow the chain to have the issue resolved and if it does not get resolved, then move forward to the more drastic measures. Like I said before I was only playing Devil’s advocate, but don’t know all the circumstances and honestly cannot comment whether this person was treated fairly or not. I can only go off the documents presented.

    I do enjoy reading the different point of views. I tend to have an open mind and can see where each and every one of you are coming from. I base my decisions on facts, not feeling or emotions. The bottom line is, if it happened and she suffered because of it, then I feel she is owed (obviously it was not proven as such, so she was not). If it didn’t happen, and she felt as though she was being targeted anyhow, I certainly would make sure the persons that worked with her were clear on how to handle such a situation. Not to give her any amo if you will, or a reason to believe she is being treated as such.

    NEB- thanks for your comments in regards to me. I don’t disagree with everything you said and am fully aware that I do have a Sexual Harassment case (said my very good friend who is a prominant labor relations attorney). Most of these issues have been taken to HR (which we no longer have), upper Management and have just been discussed between myself and witnesses. BTW a couple of the persons who have witnessed these things are Management. I have said all along, if I were anybody else, my company would have been sued a while ago and someone would be fired. I usually just let it roll off my back, but I don’t forget. I’m pretty certain, the main offender has done this to others and it is being addressed.

  • Bill

    Thanks Harold

  • Tom

    Harold
    Just to clarify my Wifes case was proven and so see won her case. My point is that she persued the harrassment and won her case and actions were taken. The problem here with this case is most of you are assuming what was aleged took placed and actually happened, if it had merit as in my wifes case she would have won a hostle environment case which should have very little to do with workers comp. Again you are dealing with assumptions and the case was regarded as nonfactual to the degree that warrents action and was as stated in the court documents unproven and contested by other witnesses in the workplace. we all know these things happen and that does not make them right but at the same time this women had her day in court and the company was cleared and dont forget they did FIRE one manager who was on their staff( for what exactly is not stated).

  • http://na Harry J. Wendlandt

    IF she has been diagnosed properly proving she has an axiety disorder then no question she should be covered. However I cannot imagine her proving that work caused the industry. More important that work comp covering this situation is that group health should cover all mental disorders the exact same way physical disorders a recovered. Same limits. The brain is an organ.

  • The HR Girl

    If this woman didn’t win her case or appeals, then I truly believe that what she experienced was not even close to stress causing workers comp for a reasonable person, given that there most certainly is a bias in the legal system towards the employee. I’m amazed that she didn’t win actually but am actually happy that she did not because so often these cases go against employers. The fact that this company continued to fight the case also speaks to the fact that they must’ve had lots of documentation to support their assertion that things were not as the employee said they were. Working in HR I hear such crap and complaining. My current company treats its employees so well, and probably better than 95% of companies out there, and yet there are still complaints and lawsuits by opportunistic employees. And settle, even though they have absolutely no merit, because it’s cheaper to do so and employees (and their lawyers) know it. It’s terrible. 99% of the time, people who sue are poor performers and were either going to be termed or disciplined (for good reason) right before they make a complaint. The other 1% usually win their cases. These days I don’t think it’s really hard to win a case if you’ve legitimately been harassed and I don’t really think that’s the problem.

    Workers Comp is not meant for mental anguish or stress. You can take medical leaves, you can go on disability if you are mentally not fit to work, however, it is not the place of worker’s comp to support an employee who is not able to mentally handle the job. It is time for them to get a new job or perhaps a transfer.

    Really, people need to be more concered about doing their job. Just do your job people!! If you don’t like your job – leave. Way too much suing going on, it’s out of control. If people have problems, they automatically start thinking of how to sue to get something out of it rather than what they can do to help correct the situation. The end goal these days for employees seems to be money, not actually fixing the problem.

  • Bill

    Harry, work caused the industry. Whats that mean?

  • Virginia

    HR Girl, She probably was just doing her job before being hit in the head and belittled because of what happened (911). If I was in her situation, I would have called the police immediatly and filed assalt charges against the guy who hit her and the company for not acting on it. Then file a civil suit. But being of a different origin, she probably was afraid because of 911 happenings.

  • The HR Girl

    Yes, she should’ve called the police if she was hit on the head and then filed charges if she was assaulted! Of course she should have – I’m asserting that one of the reasons she didn’t is because that’s not what happened. I live in NYC and I am a minority and I know the environment that existing after 9/11. I know that there were some hostile feelings, however I also can tell you for a fact that there were and are a lot of opportunists who used the timing to create scenarios that didn’t happen. I’m not buying that the 9/11 connection scared her from asserting her rights, which she obviously isn’t afraid to do. Again, I’ll say that I don’t know the full story, however the courts who ruled against her and in favor of the employer on multiple occassions, presumably should and see how that turned out.

  • Teri

    Personaly, I would not want to work at a place where I was harrassed. There is a difference between stress and harrasment.

    When I became a manager for the first time at the young age of 19, I developed exema due to stress. Apparently you can have exema and not know it. Stess can bring exema out of hiding.
    I was a hairdresser. At one point the exema got so bad that my fingers were cracked and looked like I had been in a fire. I was told that I needed to change professions. This was 27 years ago. I continued in my chosen profession for another 25 years. I am still a hairdresser but my fulltime job is an operations manager for a large business. So you can see I have learn to deal with my own personal problem. Workmans comp would have covered my problem. But for me, that wasn’t an option. I loved what I did. It was not an injury due to where I worked or neglagence in any way. Its life. I took responsibility for my body and how it reacted to what I chose to do.
    I think its wrong for a company to have to pay for something thats not its fault or not work related. My exema was in me. I did not contract it at work, it was always there. I chose to be a manager and I chose that stressful work load. However in todays world I am sure there are many people that would file workmans comp cases claiming stress for this same thing.

    I agree with above writer it should be case by case.
    Employees need to be responsible as well as employers.
    I feel it should also be work related. Really work related. I had an employee get workmans comp because the car she was parked in, was hit by another car in my parking lot. this was a large shopping center parking lot. The car that hit her was stolen, the girls car she was in ended up not being insured so it fell on me and my workmans comp. she got it. What did that have to do with my haircutting business.

    I think the whole workmans comp program needs to be evaluated as well as employees and employers needing to take responsibility for their own actions.

    I realize my comments are a little off the subject line but I have heard time and time again and seen first hand how employees take advantage of employers. Its not uncommon for people to want to get something for nothing. I think its sad.

    I have never seen a case where someone should get workmans comp and didn’t.

  • Mike

    I currently work at a job with a lot of stress and harrasment at all levels and I have a certain amount of anxiety due to that. But, I strongly disagree with workmans comp. for that. Number one, file a complaint. number two, file a harrasment suit. number three Quit and get another job. or go to your doctor and get anxiety medication. Whatever you do if you can not deal with your work-place environment get out before you do something dumb. And look for a more friendly atmosphere or start a business of your own. We have enough fraudulant claims in our health care and workmans comp. systems that keep driving up the cost of insurance, so lets not add another. Listen anxiety is real and can lead to serious behavior problems, so if you have anxiety it could be deeper than just your job, so please deal with it by seeing your doctor.

  • justbill

    people look for any excuse to try and get money for nothing. she probably accepted the job as an advancement in h er career and then wasn’t able to perform her duties resulting in her failure. the job requires a certain stress level for the responsibilities. she just couldnt handle it and couldnt grow to handle it either. its unfortunate, she should have looked for an easier job somewhere else. idont think poeple are prejudice anymore and i believe she had other personal issues like all foreigners. they all feel persecuted. maybe she just didnt put forth the effort when it comes to employee relations. there are people like that. it is a two way street, you get what you put in to it and obviously she has nothing to leave with. people always look for the bigger paycheck without realizing the effort we put in, the sacrifices we make, and the things we put up with, and those of us who succeed manage our personal life with our job formiing a balance to get it all done. they didnt add special responsibilities to her day resulting in her overworking. she’s just another under achiever looking for a buck.

  • http://safetynews Frank

    if the atmosphere in the work space/place has made it so a person can not perform their job function, then remove the source of the problem. Do not let them stay and compensate the offended person with $. Create a better work environment. It will only take 1 example and you will see improvement.

  • Maria

    Unfortunately, we all go through some stress at work. Especially, if your occupation is dealing with people. I go through stress on a daily basis dealing with employee relations. Stress is not something to be taken lightly because it leads to other serious symptons which can be life threatening.

  • Klay Northrup

    We as safety professionals have a great responsabiblity to ensure worker health and safety. I do have a problem with the whole “anxiety” issue because it would be one of those issues that just open the door for so much more. Obviously the court system, found her worker comp case un-warranted, and yet many people here think their fellow American’s acted harshly simply because of 9/11. I guess many of them also think that President Obama was right when he went on his “Apology” tour.

  • Fed Up

    YOU have to deal with your own stress. If people are creating stress for you, then you have to end it through proper actions. Stress related awards are completely ridiculous. Deal with it! If it means you have to quit then do so. Your health is more important than your financial statement.

    What about all the stress since 9/11 for anybody working in a skyscraper or chemical facility? Do all of those people “qualify” for stress related workers comp?

    Come on take responsibility for yourself!

  • http://yahoo Not the land of opportunity

    Harassed on the job, called vulgar names, lied to, set up by management staff to keep you from getting promotions or raises. Then fired because your employer found out you applied for another job. This is what it is like on the front line. No employee representation. At will employee. Companies are no longer loyal to their employees and vise versa, and you ask why????????

  • Deway Greene

    Should employees be able to get workers’ comp for stress on the job? Certainly not! First, anxiety cannot be proven because it is a nervous disorder and 2nd, anxiety is so complex that NO ONE could ever define the cause, so how could a cure be provided? Off job influences in anxiety are great as is personal chemistry, expecially ladies as they have monthly swings in estrogen levels. This is just another attempt to place additional burdens in a time of depressed financial markets. At this rate, those who want companies to cover every problem they have, will soon have no companies to pay for anything, including their salary!

  • Dee

    I put up with insults from my manager for 8 years, I kept a diary on her behavior and her obvious favoritism. Her dislike for me kept me from advancements within her department. She lied to keep me from obtaining a new job title. I went to the trainer in our company to hear her opinion of my learning capabilities, long story short, she invited herself to sit with me in HR to deny my managers accusations. The personal insults came out of no where catching me off guard, I never had a “come back” fearing she wanted me to have a reaction and therefore be within her rights to fire me. One example, one morning while doing my work, this manager approached me pointing to a broom leaning against the wall, she asked ” is this how you got to work today?” I was like I said, caught off guard, I could not think of anything to say, another employee heard her question to me and she told the manager “no, thats how you (the manager) got to work”. I admit, it was a tradeoff her insults for my paycheck and benefits. Recently I took a job outside her department, the new manager was very aggresive also, when I went in HR to lodge a complaint, I was asked by the HR lady, “you do know that those two managers are good friends, don’t you?” I left work that day and saw my Dr. the next day, I went out on a 6 week work clinic (without pay), was put on 3 medications and even talked to a lawyer. I worked for this company for 12 1/2 years with no negative marks on my personnel file, I have had fair, good managers, but this one particular manager made it her destiny to beat me into submission. I am a fighter but I am also realistic and know it is my word against her word and she will bring up the fact that my Mom passed away and my younger brother as well, I have been and will be called “too sensitive, too timid” so I am left with a decision, stay or go? I have decided no more, I am leaving once and for all, no turning around. I am simply going to quit, this way I can submit my applications without having any flaw on my work record. This manager will stay no doubt and she will find her next victim, I can only hope that HR will take note for future complaints against her. This company does not pay into state disability, my claim I submitted with their insurance company was rejected as work related. Althought the Doctors diagnosis is “anxiety due to work environment” I am not going to deal with that company for a second longer, they have lost a good employee.

  • Ms Safety Girl

    @Dee
    I’m sorry for your troubles. Been there done that. It is a difficult situation to be in and to prove. Some people just think that those of us that are on the receiving end of the harassment are simply weak or cry babies. I am a very strong individual almost to a fault. I can handle a lot of things. I’ve survived a few terrible tragedies. The difference between those situations and the harassment I was enduring everyday is that the tragedies I had experienced would eventually end. I saw no ending to the harassment. I was not getting the help that I should have been from my employer. One day it finally happened. I stuck it out, but unfortunately before that happened, I too ended up calling my Dr. and saying “my lips are tingling and I’m numb around my mouth”. I went in to see him and he said “I know what is going on with you, now I just need to find out why.” After a few prying questions I finally told him about what was happening to me at work. I was prescribed anxiety medication. Me with anxiety? Please… I’m as “cool as a cucumber”, as I have been told on many occasions. Nothing bothers me. As it turns out, I was hyperventilating everyday, and that is why my lips were tingling. I just looked at him and laughed and said “NO I’m NOT”. He said, “oh yes you are”. I really did not realize the affect this situation was having on my body. So what I’m saying to you is, you need to take care of you first. It is a shame that your employer has not protected you from this situation. I wish you the best of luck.

  • http://safetyNewsAlert.com Frustrated

    I had been an employee of a company for 15 years. I had excellent reviews, never missed work, got along with all employees, did the best I could do everyday. I got hurt at work but did not return to work within 12 weeks, so I was let go from my position. I got another job within the same company three weeks later. After two weeks of working there, I was called up to my supervisor’s office. An employee, woman employee, that she “loved” told her that I was mean, hard and stern. I asked the supervisor to give me an example of when I was mean, etc, and she could not give me one. Two weeks later I was called up to my supervisor’s office again and I was told that the same employee stated to her that I was stoic. I disagreed with every remark she had made to me during both these conversations. She mentioned to me that I better not retalliate, when this did not even run through my mind. She said “I am just putting it out there”. After this, I felt like I could never discuss anything with her again. Thats when the sexual harassment started…from the same employee who said I was mean, hard, stern, stoic, etc. She drove a wedge between me and my supervisor and then sexually harassed me on a daily basis, also sexually assaulted me by touching certain areas of my body. I took it for a couple of months and ended up in the hospital for a month. The doc in the hospital put me on a medical leave, six months later I am still on this medical leave. I lost 30 lbs, slept all day, disliked everything and everyone around me, did not trust anyone in a very short period of time. I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress syndrome, anxiety and major depressive disorder. So, I guess since I could not handle the stress, I should have just quit my job and found another one, right Safetcujun. I guess I should not be able to collect worker’s compensation or any kind of compensation. When someone mentally, physically or sexually attacks a person in the workplace, and it is documented by health care officials, they should be compensated by worker’s compensation. I am seeing three doctors a week for this same thing, spend $150.00 a week on copays, my bills are piling up… but yet some of you think people should just endure this behavior or quit. What about the injustice that takes place? Should anyone be left accountable? The only people held accountable are the victims and their families. Shame on all of you who think people like me should not be compensated.

  • Dee

    I worked for the same company for nearly 13 years, I experienced the “good” managers as well as the “bad” managers….believe me there is a difference, unfortunately I ended up with the BAD manager for the last 9 years with the company, I thought of transferring into another dept. but my manager strongly adviced me not to…She humiliated me on a daily basis, I started documenting the insults and her blatant favoritism. I seriously thought to bring my complaint to the office manager, but veered from that direction, each night while at home I would grapple with this and always ended up persuading myself, “I should be grateful I have a job”. The final blow came on a Wednesday afternoon, We were all told, there would be no raises across the board for the second year in a row. The company was closing an office in Colorado Springs and that work was coming to us, so…. more work and less pay. My manager hit me with the last insult and I was in no mood to take it, I complained to H.R.., I was told to just suck it up and go back in there..I was told there is favoritism in every company and no one was going to change, not for me !! I finished the day and headed home I slept zero hours and the next morning went to my Doctor, I was so shaken and crying nonstop, I could not, I would not step foot in that office again. I attended a 6 week work clinic I was put on anti-depressants and sleeping pills. I did seek legal counsel because the company paid into workers comp. thru its own private insurance, therefore I was denied any compensation. I had 3 attorneys wanting to handle this for me, well long story short, I chose to drop it all….I handed over my resignation and never looked back, I did not want to hear of the company ever again and my promise is….anyone asking if I would recommend that company, my answer is NO. farewell…I logged onto a website … http://www.glassdoor.com…..and low and behold there are other former employees who also described the work environment as hostile and managers exhibiting favoritism….I took off a very needed 6 months, I got off the depressants and now sleep well at night again….I am now working for the state of California and I am loving it…..LIFE does go on…