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Stressful work environment: Does workers' comp apply?

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Workers' compensation laws offer qualifying employees benefits in the event of injury. In some cases, the law is relatively clear. Workers that fall while on the job, may qualify for workers' comp benefits. Those that are injured by equipment while on the job will likely qualify for benefits.

But what if a worker claims they are working in an overly stressful environment? What if the worker claims the stress from his or her job results in a heart attack? Can this worker get workers' compensation benefits?

That is the question asked in a recent case.

Details of the case: Worker sues employer for overly stressful work culture

In this case, an employee of a state transit authority for almost three decades sues his employer. In 2016, the employer transferred the worker to a different division. The man states as a result of the transfer he was assigned a new, verbally abusive supervisor. He has accused the supervisor of bullying him while on the job. He states that this treatment led to a stressful work environment, which ultimately triggered his heart attack.

The worker points to evidence from scientific studies to support his claims. Studies have found a stressful work environment can impact a worker's mental health. But at what point does a stressful work environment rise to the level of a danger that could qualify for workers' compensation benefits? The court currently hearing the case will provide guidance in coming months.

If the worker is able to build a successful claim, he could receive monetary awards including compensation for missed work as a result of the heart attack. The employee missed two weeks of work due to the heart attack and is seeking $150,000 in damages.

The case provides an example of the types of claims employers and workers' compensation insurance providers must grapple with on a regular basis. Those who are in this situation are wise to seek legal counsel to discuss resolution options.

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