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.