Can Workers' Comp Cover Stress? – Making the Workplace Zen - Zupnick Associates

(by Elton Mwangi)

Employees may go through severe cases of PTSD and stress following traumatic situations, which raises the question, can workers’ comp cover stress? 

For instance, shots were fired at a Northern California rail yard in broad daylight by a transit employee. Samuel Cassidy took the lives of nine co-workers before killing himself on 26th May 2021.

Workplace mass shootings are more common than you’d think. And while most people are concerned about the incident, few realize the after-effects on employees who have to return to the same workplace and do business as usual. 

Can Workers’ Comp Cover Stress?

Yes. Workers’ compensation covers stress related to the employee’s job.

Stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health-related claims are assessed case-by-case. However, numerous states allow employees to get workers’ comp for stress-related injuries, including Oregon, California, Virginia, Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan, Vermont, and Massachusetts. In these states, compensation is offered even if there’s no physical injury.

In some states, workers comp is granted for stress-related injuries in limited cases, such as for first responders or sudden incidents. These states include New York, Maine, Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Utah, and others.

Getting coverage means proving that workers had stress or anxiety in the cause of employment. 

Which Mental Health Problems are Covered Under Workers’ Compensation?

The employee’s job must be responsible for their injury or disability to collect workers’ compensation benefits. Also, the injury must be critical enough to interfere with the employee’s ability to perform at work. Workers’ comp may assist to cover mental health injuries like:

How to Prove Stress is Work-related

While physical injuries are easy to prove, mental health conditions are not. Mental health injuries must be severe enough to disrupt the worker’s ability to perform at work. Employees can get workers’ comp benefits in these cases:

  • A shooting in the business premises that results in many employees filing claims for PTSD
  • An employee filing a claim for anxiety after being harassed at work
  • A nurse filing for a claim for trauma after repeatedly seeing victims of accidents or violence

If a business owner challenges a claim, the worker bears the burden of proving that the injury is a consequence of their work and not a pre-existing condition or external source.

Nature of work or difficulties at work may cause mental health problems for workers in the long run, and it can be challenging to prove that their job caused employee injury. For instance, if a manager is abrasive, screams at workers frequently, and gives unreasonable deadlines, these can cause employees considerable anxiety. Nonetheless, it may be difficult to demonstrate that other life situations like financial stress don’t cause the resulting anxiety.

Employees can overcome this challenge by visiting experienced health professionals who can establish that the employees’ work is the cause of the stress and offer testimony.

What’s more, employees going through mental health-related injuries at work should document their experiences in a formal report. They need to include the date, time, root cause, and description of the mental health injury in the report. You must then file a claim with your insurer to report their workplace injuries. 

Why Does Covering Stress Matter?

After cancer and heart disease, mental health conditions are the costliest health problems. They account for 33% of new disability claims and are the leading cause of disabilities in the US.

If not treated, employers will incur the cost of lost productivity and absenteeism. In fact, employers incur $500 billion in lost productivity every year.

Also, as you cover your employees from workplace injuries, stress is an essential condition to consider because most workers who get physically injured at work end up with mental health-related disorders. 

Conclusion

So, can workers’ comp cover stress? Absolutely. Whether it’s depression, anxiety, stress, or PTSD, as long as the injury is caused by work, employees can file a workers’ compensation claim. However, workers’ compensation laws vary by state.

Unlike physical injuries, mental health conditions are harder to prove that they are related to an employee’s work. Therefore, since the burden of proof is on workers, they need to document what they’re going through in a formal report. They can also see a psychiatrist who will establish that the employee’s job is responsible for the mental health injury.

Now file claims with your insurance company to report workplace-related mental injuries.

If you’re rethinking your current workers’ comp insurance or are starting a business and need one, Zupnick & Associates will lend a hand.

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