Work Stress Claims

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WORK STRESS - MENTAL HEALTH CLAIMS

Workplace Injury Attorney Los Angeles

Work Stress Mental Health Claims

Workers in California are entitled to compensation for injuries sustained while at work or as a result of their employment. When thinking of an injury, people often imagine a broken arm, leg, or some other sort of condition which is related to the injured worker’s physical condition. However, not all injuries which are sustained at the workplace are physical – some are mental.

It is common for people to get stressed while at work. Sometimes, and hopefully – most of the time, the stress is of short duration – a pressing deadline on an important project, concern over performance at times, etc. There are, however, cases where stress is persistent over time, and as people start to become more and more stressed due to work, it becomes more likely that the issue results in serious mental health problems for the worker in question.

But the question of importance for every worker suffering from stress as a result of their employment is the following: “Can I get workers’ compensation benefits for work stress?”. The answer is not simple, and as with any case concerning workers’ compensation, it is important to turn to a competent workers compensation lawyer Los Angeles in order to help guide you and obtain maximum benefits for your claim.

For your convenience and for aiding in your general knowledge with respect of your rights as an employee who may suffer an injury at work, below we have prepared a general overview of the topic of work stress and mental health claims. The information concerns the general position of the law, but for any particular case we recommend that you contact a workplace injury attorney Los Angeles.

What are the particular laws on stress relief?

It is important to note that where California law is concerned, there are no specific laws which explicitly target stress relief in the workplace, and thus there is no explicit legal framework to that effect on which the Los Angeles Workers Comp Attorneys to base their clients’ cases on. Nevertheless, the laws in respect to workers’ compensation do allow the possibility for you to file a claim for a psychiatric injury which is a result of stress in the workplace.

Moreover, where the relevant criteria are applicable, the Family Medical Leave Act and the California Family Rights Act may enable you to file for unpaid leave.

What are the particular laws on stress relief?

There are circumstances under which employees can actually qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. In order to qualify, you must have a diagnosis of a mental health or psychiatric disorder that needs treatment and appeared as a result of your work, or worsened as a result of your employment. In such instances, your employer must provide you with workers’ compensation benefits, and in addition must keep your job available for you for a certain amount of time while you are recovering from your condition.

What are the particular laws on stress relief?

The California Labor Code, in § 3208.3, states that a psychiatric injury shall be compensable if:

  • it is a mental disorder which causes disability or need for medical treatment, and it is diagnosed pursuant to specific procedures (which are detailed in Section 139.2, paragraph (4) of subdivision (j) of the Labor Code);
  • the claimant has worked for the employer for at least six months;
  • the psychiatric condition which is at the base of the claim is outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V);
  • the psychiatric condition/mental disorder can be shown to be caused by the actual circumstances of the employment by at least 51% or more;
  • the psychiatric condition/mental disorder was not caused by the personnel actions that the employer took in good faith, which were lawful and non-discriminatory;
  • the psychiatric condition/mental illness was not caused by the process of bringing the claim itself or the process of litigating it.

It is important to emphasize that “stress” is not defined within the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a psychiatric condition in and of itself, but it may be a symptom of other conditions, such as generalized anxiety disorder and some forms of depression.

Can I make a claim for workers’ compensation benefits for a psychiatric injury if I have received a notice of termination?

California’s Labor Code states explicitly that where the claim for compensation is filed after notice of termination of employment or layoff, including voluntary layoff, and the claim is for an injury occurring prior to the time of notice of termination or layoff, no compensation shall be paid. But there are exceptions to this.

Compensation can actually be paid if the employee demonstrates by a preponderance of the evidence that actual events of employment were predominant as to all causes combined of the psychiatric injury and one or more of the following conditions exist:

  • Sudden and extraordinary events of employment were the cause of the injury, and/or
  • The employer has notice of the psychiatric injury under Chapter 2 (commencing with Section 5400 ) prior to the notice of termination or layoff, and/or
  • The employee's medical records existing prior to notice of termination or layoff contain evidence of treatment of the psychiatric injury, and/or
  • Upon a finding of sexual or racial harassment by any trier of fact, whether contractual, administrative, regulatory, or judicial, and/or
  • Evidence that the date of injury is subsequent to the date of the notice of termination or layoff, but prior to the effective date of the termination or layoff.

Therefore, if any one or more of the requirements set out in the points above are present, even if the employee has received a notice of termination of employment or layoff, or if there is voluntary layoff, the employee may still bring a claim for workers’ compensation benefits for a psychiatric injury.

Do I need to have anything specific, like a doctors’ opinion, in order to bring a claim successfully?

In order for your claim to be successful, you must have a detailed physician’s report that supports your claim for workers’ compensation benefits. Some of the information that may need to be presented include your health history and personal records. Other relevant factors include job satisfaction levels, objective test data, and may include statements from your co-workers, family and friends in the form of depositions.

Is obtaining workers’ compensation benefits due to psychiatric injury more difficult?

Every situation is unique, so it is possible, but it is can be more difficult than obtaining benefits for injuries that affect your physical health. Workers Compensation Attorneys Los Angeles can assist you with navigating all the intricacies involved with your workers compensation claim.

What are my options if I do not get workers’ compensation benefits due to my claim for psychiatric injury caused by stress?

If you cannot get workers’ compensation benefits for your claim for psychiatric injury caused by stress, there are still some options left to explore. Claims administrators may improperly deny your work injury claim, and an experienced workers comp lawyer can help to challenge the denial and obtain the maximum benefits that you may be entitled to.

One of your options to deal with work-related stress is unpaid leave. If your physician provides a determination that due to stress your health is threatened, you can receive unpaid leave and your job shall still be protected under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or the California Family Rights Act (CFRA).

Both Acts which have been cited above present you with an alternative option if you are extensively stressed by your employment or you feel anxious and need time away, as you feel the need to take time off.

Any attempts to deny the requested leave by your employer or tries on your employers’ part to shorten your leave, or attempts to pressure you into not taking the said leave which you are entitled to under the Family Medical Leave Act or the California Family Rights Act could give rise to additional legal grounds for you to claim damages.

Conclusion

As stated above, California labor laws are a complex matter and are extremely difficult to navigate when faced with a particular issue. If you consider that your job is putting undue stress on you, which may cause you significant harm, it is important to contact an experienced professional who can guide you through the steps you need to undertake with respect to your claim, so that you can be aware of the necessary legal requirements for properly bringing a claim, whether you satisfy them, as well as the maximum amount of compensation you can receive.

Moreover, even if you cannot qualify for benefits relating to a mental illness or psychiatric injury sustained as a result of your stress, turning to a legal professional will allow you to consider the full scope of your options provided by the State of California. As mentioned above, there are additional routes which may be of use to you in order to make sure that you avoid any further injuries, while also engaging your employer’s responsibility to you as a worker for the full extent possible as per the law in California.

Our Los Angeles Workers Compensation Lawyers are always ready to provide you with professional advice tailored to your specific case. You can contact us for a free consultation at (310) 988-0818.

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