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Workers’ compensation for mental health disorders caused by work

| May 4, 2016 | Workers' Compensation |

There are many different types of injuries that can occur at work for which an employee can file for workers’ compensation in Texas and around the country. One area that has become more widely discussed in connection to on-the-job injury and subsequent workers’ compensation claims is mental health disorders, such as anxiety, depression or posttraumatic stress disorder, that are connected to chronic workplace stress.

Poor health can be caused by excessive stress, according to the Harvard Business Review. There are numerous studies demonstrating a clear connection between a variety of illnesses and workplace stress. It may manifest itself through acute or chronic physical or mental disorders. This leads to the question of where the blame for this excessive stress lies: the person or the manager/employer.

It is a difficult answer, as there must be a clear cause and effect for most workers’ compensation claims to be approved. Proving an illness or injury was due to chronic workplace stress over a period of months or years, as opposed to any personal stress or other factors, makes the issue more complex than other workplace injuries.

The relationship between workplace stress and certain illnesses is widely believed in both the lay community and medical community. This correlation has lead to some lawsuits, and some states have taken proactive action by adding injuries due to stress on the job to what is covered by workers’ compensation. However, it remains an area with no clear answer, with each state making its own guidelines.

In Texas, workplace stress does not play a major factor in workers’ compensation law, according to the Workers’ Compensation Institute. Despite including physical occupational injury, defined as injury or illness deriving from repetitive physical movements, the state does not cover similar repetitive injuries, such as chronic stress, to a person’s mental health. Any mental health and trauma claims must have a clear correlation to a particular event, such as an accident. The claimant must also be able to prove a clear link between an event and the mental health concern.

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