Does Workers’ Comp Cover Extreme Stress in the Workplace?

does-workers-compensation-cover-workplace-stressWhen you think about a workplace injury you probably think about a broken bone or a burn. You imagine something extreme has happened to the body. But sometimes stress can be considered a workplace injury.

According to Colorado Revised Statute § 8-41-302 an “accident”, “injury”, and “occupational disease” resulting from mental or emotional stress may occur if that mental or emotional stress is “proximately caused solely by hazards to which the worker would not have been equally exposed outside” his or her job. In other words, stress that occurs in the workplace must have resulted because of the hazards of the job.

Colorado Case Law

There is older case law in Colorado which discusses when a workplace injury or disease can occur due to mental or emotional stress. In City Market, Inc. v. ICAO, 800 P.2d 1335 (Colo. Ct. App., 1990), the court held that because the claimant was subjected on a daily basis to work in close proximity with her supervisor, who sexually harassed her during work, was a “stress-producing incident and its aftermath occurred as a result of the nature of claimant’s occupation and environment.”

Additionally, in City of Aurora v. Industrial Com’n of Colorado, 710 P.2d 1122 (Colo. Ct. App, 1985), the claimant claimed that his undercover police duties resulted in chronic tension, anxiety, depression, and paranoia. The hearing officer for the work comp claim found that claimant suffered from PTSD due to his undercover narcotic work. The court agreed with the hearings officer and Industrial Commission which affirmed an award of temporary total disability benefits. The court states that the occupational disease was “proximately caused by the unique psychological stresses” of his undercover work.

As you can see, there have been cases in Colorado covering mental and emotion stress in the workplace. All jobs have at least a little bit of stress associated with them—things like deadlines, arguments, or unforeseen problems. It’s important to try to always have a positive mindset to get through the work week. As a lawyer, I know the job can get stressful at times. However, when the stress associated with a job becomes so extreme that it affects your day-to-day life, it might be time to consider whether or not that stress is proximately caused by hazards associated with your place of work. If that is a case you may have a workers’ compensation claim. The workers comp system can be a confusing place to navigate. If you need assistance, it is important to get an experienced attorney on your side like those at McDivitt Law Firm.

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