WORKERS’ COMPENSATION IN THE NEWS, EPISODE #2, A RESTAURANT COOKING UP STRESS: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

A Restaurant closed for a “day of kindness” after enduring customers’ abuse. Nypost.com  Restaurant Employee stress is real.  Some of the story’s restaurant’s employees were reduced to tears from customers swearing, threatening, arguing, and yelling.

The story illustrated multiple stressors that restaurant employees experience.  Customer abuse was the highlight.  There were management problems as well. The Employer noted that they “.. have had to make adjustments due to the increase in business volume, size of kitchen, product availability and staffing availability.”

Can Work Stress Be the Basis for a Workers’ Compensation Claim?

Yes. Work stress can be a source of psychiatric injury claim.   it can be the source of other stress related conditions.

Do The Restaurant Employees From the Story Have a Claim?

In California, the predominant cause of a psychiatric claim of injury arise from actual events of employment.  Further, good-faith personnel action which is substantial (35-40%) can defeat a claim.

In the story, the stressors did not come from employer discipline or write-ups.  Rather it came from Customers and Management organizational issues.  Thus, it can be argued that 100 percent of the work stressors do not fall within the personnel action defense.

Are Stressed Out Employees Eligible for Time off From Work?

Work stress can cause employees to go out sick. Mental Health Practitioners may take stressed out employee off of work.  This may entitle the Injured Worker to obtain benefits during their time off.   It should be noted that in the story, the workers, technically, never received a day off.  Instead, they spent the day cleaning the restaurant.

What If I Need Advice?

If you would like a free consultation regarding workers’ compensation, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. We have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their workers’ compensation cases for over 27 years. Contact us today for more information.

What You Need To Know About Workers’ With Pre-existing Mental Health Issues And Workers’ Compensation

Many Workers, prior to starting employment, have diagnosed medical illnesses.  There are a variety of forms of mental illness.

A study looked into mentally ill individuals in the workplace.  This study discusses how work impacts the mentally ill. This information is important with respect to workers’ compensation stress claims.

This article will discuss mental illness, forms of mental illness, work’s impact on mentally ill individuals, and what it means in the context of workers’ compensation stress claims.

What Is Mental Illness?

 Mental illnesses are health conditions involving changes in emotion, thinking or behavior (or a combination of these). Mental illnesses are associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities. Psychiatry.org. “ Mental illness is common. In a given year: nearly one in five (19 percent) U.S. adults experience some form of mental illness one in 24 (4.1 percent) has a serious mental illness, one in 12 (8.5 percent) has a diagnosable substance use disorder.” Psychiatry.org

There is a variety of mental illnesses.  These include anxiety disorder, Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, autism, bipolar disorder, clinical depression, dementia, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia,

What Is California Psychiatry Injury Causation Standard?

Labor Code Section 3208.3 provides the causation standard.  The causation burden per (b)(1) is that “In order to establish that a psychiatric injury is compensable, an employee shall demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that actual events of employment were predominant as to all causes combined of the psychiatric injury”  This means greater than 50 percent.

There is a lower standard in certain circumstances.  Per (b)(2), “… in the case of employees whose injuries resulted from being a victim of a violent act or from direct exposure to a significant violent act, the employee shall be required to demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that actual events of employment were a substantial cause of the injury.”  Substantial cause is at least 35 to 40 percent.

 Does Working Impact Mental Illness?

The study found that “Individuals with mental illness who are employed, compared to those who are unemployed, reported slightly higher levels of overall life satisfaction and psychophysiological health”. Granjard A, Mihailovic M, Amato C, et al. Occupation and life satisfaction among individuals with mental illness: the mediation role of self-reported psychophysiological health. PeerJ. 2021;9:e10829. Published 2021 Jan 29. doi:10.7717/peerj.10829.

How Does The Study Relate to Work Injuries?

Mentally ill individuals may have improved health and satisfaction when they are working.  Therefore, this improvement in their mental state should be factored into work injury causation analysis.   Also, it may have value with respect to permanent disability apportionment.

What Was in the Study’s Reporting?

The study reported that “, the mechanism underlying the relationship between having an occupation and life satisfaction implies that having an occupation enhances individuals’ perception of their own physical and psychological health, which in turn might increase their satisfaction with life” Granjard A, Mihailovic M, Amato C, et al. Occupation and life satisfaction among individuals with mental illness: the mediation role of self-reported psychophysiological health. PeerJ. 2021;9:e10829. Published 2021 Jan 29. doi:10.7717/peerj.10829.

What Is the Impact of Unemployment on Mental Illness?

The study noted that “[u]nemployment can lead to, among other things, diminished social status, financial debt, reduced self-esteem, and feelings of guilt. Most importantly, unemployment is significantly associated with psychiatric problems and approximately 37% higher risk of suicide (Milner, Page & Lamontagne, 2014).” Granjard A, Mihailovic M, Amato C, et al. Occupation and life satisfaction among individuals with mental illness: the mediation role of self-reported psychophysiological health. PeerJ. 2021;9:e10829. Published 2021 Jan 29. doi:10.7717/peerj.10829.

Note: This finding is important.  Mental health treatment and assessment of impairment during a pre-employment period is exacerbated by unemployment.  Thus, with no unemployment In combination with work, a Mentally Ill individual’s mental state may be significantly elevated prior to confronting work stress.

What If I Need Advice?

If you would like a free consultation regarding workers’ compensation, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. We have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their workers’ compensation cases for over 28 years. Contact us today for more information.

WORKPLACE VIOLENCE AND WORKERS’ COMPENSATION: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Workplace Violence is a serious concern in California.  Some of the most infamous workplace violence episodes have occurred in California.  This includes the San Ysidro McDonalds shootings, the Piper Tech shootings, and the San Bernardino terrorist shootings.

Not all workplace violence involves fatalities. There are many workplace violence events of a non-fatal variety.   These violence acts are significant in the workers’ compensation area because workers who are either injured in the incident or suffer emotional injury as a result of witnessing the events.  These effected workers are entitled to seek medical treatment and disability benefits through the workers’ compensation system.

There was a recent study of interest which provides insight to workers with respect to these incidents.

This article will discuss non-fatal workplace violence, how it interacts with the workers’ compensation system and the rights that an Injured Worker has relating to those incidents.

What Were the Non-Fatal Workplace Violence Studied?

In a recent study, non-fatal violence in the workplace was investigated.   In the study, the types of crime included rape/sexual assault (including attempted rape, sexual attack with serious/minor assault, sexual assault without injury, unwanted sexual contact without force, and verbal threat of rape/sexual assault); robbery (including attempted robbery); aggravated assault (attack or attempted attack with a weapon, regardless of whether or not an injury occurred, and attack without a weapon when serious injury resulted, and including aggravated assault with injury, attempted aggravated assault with weapon, and threatened assault with weapon); simple assault (attack without a weapon resulting in no or minor injury, and including simple assault with injury and assault without weapon without injury); and verbal threat of assault.” Siegel, M. Johnson, CY, Lawson CC, Ridenour M Hartley D. Nonfatal Violent Workplace Crime Characteristics and Rates by Occupation- United States, 2007-2015. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69: 324-328.

What Are the Frequency Rates of the Different Forms of Violence?

The most frequently reported type of crime was threat of assault (44%), followed by simple assault (37%), aggravated assault (13%), rape/sexual assault (3%), and robbery (3%). Siegel, M. Johnson, CY, Lawson CC, Ridenour M Hartley D. Nonfatal Violent Workplace Crime Characteristics and Rates by Occupation- United States, 2007-2015. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69: 324-328.

Note: workplace violence does not necessary translate into matters of physical harm to workers. Threats of assault can cause psychological injury or give rise to physiological stress responses such as a heart attack. Likewise, witnessing these various events might give rise to such problems as well.

Are the Violence Rates Different Between Occupations?

Yes. In the study, “[d]uring 2007–2010, occupations with the highest rates of violent workplace crimes were Protective services (e.g., first responders) (101 crimes per 1,000 workers); Community and social services (19); Healthcare practitioners and technicians (17), Healthcare support occupations (17); Education, training, and library occupations (eight); and Transportation and material moving occupations (seven.)” Siegel, M. Johnson, CY, Lawson CC, Ridenour M Hartley D. Nonfatal Violent Workplace Crime Characteristics and Rates by Occupation- United States, 2007-2015. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020; 69:324-328.

Note: It is interesting to note which areas of the workforce in which the acts occur.  It appears that the key factor is the significant contact that workers have with the public.

Are All Workplace Violence Episodes a Valid Work Injury?

No.  There are several issues that can come up.  First, there is the initial aggressor rule.  Second, if the alleged criminal has a relationship to the victim, there may be some issue of controversy as to whether it was a workplace event versus an event that happened at the workplace.  Legal analysis would be recommended in those circumstances.

Is there a Difference Physical Injuries versus Psychological Injuries?

Yes. Psychological Injuries have thresholds that must be met in order to prevail.

The Labor Code Section 3208.3 provides lower burdens for violent acts.  It is noted in the section that “in the case of employees whose injuries resulted from being a victim of a violent act or from direct exposure to a significant violent act, the employee shall be required to demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that actual events of employment were a substantial cause of the injury.”  Further, ““substantial cause” means at least 35 to 40 percent of the causation from all sources combined.”

Further, there are other sections that may assist on a psychiatric claim.  They, however, require a factual analysis. Therefore, they may be relevant but will not be discussed within this article.

Additionally, for certain safety and law enforcement officers, there is a post-traumatic stress disorder presumption.  Click here for an article discussing it.

Are There Any Other Sources of Benefits?

Yes. The State of California has a Victims of Crime Program which can also provide benefits in some circumstances.  Click here for an article discussing it.

What if I Need Advice?

If you would like a free consultation regarding workers’ compensation, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. We have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their workers’ compensation cases for 27 years. Contact us today for more information.

 

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