Stressful work environments may result in workers’ compensation benefits

Employees who are forced to work in an overly stressful environment may be eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits.

American employers are required to provide safe working conditions for their employees. Workers who are injured on the job may be eligible to receive workers' compensation benefits from their employer. These benefits are most often awarded to people who have been physically injured from a falling object, slip-and-fall or some other type of occupational hazard. However, Pennsylvania workers who suffer from emotional stress, and the physical conditions that may arise from excessive anxiety, may also be eligible to receive workers' compensation benefits.

According to Business Insurance, a Pennsylvania teacher filed for workers' compensation benefits due to trauma she experienced from working in a stressful environment. The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania awarded her limited benefits, despite an appeal from the School District of Philadelphia. The second-grade teacher claimed that the difficult classroom aggravated her pre-existing heart murmur and lupus, and caused vocal cord damage. She also suffered dizziness, nausea, heart palpitations and headaches because of the unruly class. After the teacher was reassigned to another, less-stressful school she filed for workers' compensation benefits.

Stress at the workplace

Not all stressful workplace conditions are considered eligible for workers' compensation. Some positions, such as first responders, firefighters and emergency room professionals, come with an expected level of stress. When the stress level exceeds the normal level that is usually present at work, however, employees may have a case, according to the American Bar Association. In some cases, high amounts of stress can lead to permanent emotional, mental or even physical impairment. This can affect the workers' ability to do their job.

It is up to employees to prove that their stress-related condition or disability is directly related to workplace stress, and not merely anxiety arising from a personal nature. For example, the Pennsylvania teacher who was awarded workers' compensation benefits proved that her stressful classroom environment stemmed from children in the class. When she moved to another school, her anxiety subsided.

Implications of workplace stress

According to the American Psychological Association, long-term stress can have serious effects on the body. Stress may invoke migraine headaches, musculoskeletal disorders, trouble breathing, elevated heart rate and other cardiovascular problems, ulcers, depression and even decreased testosterone production. Chronic stress can increase one's risk for developing heart disease, and aggravate pre-existing conditions, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Legal assistance may be necessary

If your stressful workplace atmosphere has gone beyond a reasonable level, resulting in emotional and/or physical trauma, you may want to consider speaking to an attorney. A workers' compensation lawyer in Pennsylvania can review your case, and may help you to receive benefits for your suffering.

Keywords: workers' compensation, injury, workplace