Most of us have been stressed at work at one point or another. Work-related stress can often be short-lived once an important deadline has been met or you resolve an internal conflict with a co-worker. However, there are other times when you may suffer from ongoing stress and anxiety at work which can result in serious psychiatric problems.
But can you get workers’ comp benefits for stress just as you can for a physical injury? Maybe. While California does not have a stress leave law per se, California labor law may allow you to file a workers’ compensation claim for a psychiatric injury caused by workplace stress. You may also be eligible for unpaid stress leave under the Family Medical Leave Act and California Family Rights Act.
How to Get Workers’ Comp for Stress in California
If you are a California employee who is suffering from a work-related injury or illness, your employer is obligated by law to pay for your worker’s compensation benefits. This is also true if you are suffering from a psychiatric injury and need financial help to recover. Under California workers’ compensation law, you may be compensated for a work-related psychiatric injury if you have been diagnosed with a mental disorder that has resulted in a need for treatment or a disability.
What Psychiatric Injuries are Covered Under California Labor Law?
Under California Labor Code 3208.3, you may qualify for workers’ compensation benefits if your psychiatric injuries meet these requirements:
- You have at least six months of work history with your employer.
- Your psychiatric condition is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) by the American Psychiatric Association (APA).
- You can prove that the work environment or actual events of your employment are the predominant cause of your psychiatric condition, such as through work-induced stress.
- Your psychiatric condition was not caused by good faith, non-discriminatory personnel actions by your employers (e.g. criticism of your attendance or work, a change in your assignments, or decisions about raises and promotions).
- Your psychiatric condition was not caused by the litigation process.
- Your psychiatric condition was filed after termination or notice of termination from your job, unless your employer knew about your psychiatric injury or treatment for a psychiatric disorder before your termination.
It’s important to note that stress itself is not listed as a psychiatric condition in the DSM-IV.
Workers Compensation Stress Claims Must Be Confirmed by Your Physician
In addition to these requirements, psychiatric and emotional distress claims claims that are filed in California must be supported by a detailed testimony from your doctor. Your physician will be required to submit a thorough review of your background, developmental history, personal problems, job satisfaction, and performance reviews. They must also include depositions, statements from your co-workers, personal records, psychometric test data, academic and military records, and interviews with your family members to prove your psychiatric injury.
Claiming Stress Leave in California Under FMLA & CFRA
If your physician deems your job-related stress a “serious health condition”, you could also be eligible to take 12 weeks of unpaid protected job leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the California Family Rights Act (CFRA). FMLA or CFRA leave may be a great option if your job-related stress and anxiety is interfering with your ability to work and you need to take time away.
Your employer could also be sued if they interfere with your leave, deny leave, refuses to reinstate you upon your return from leave, or retaliate against you for taking leave for stress.
Learn More About Stress and Workers Comp in California
If you are suffering from workplace stress that has resulted in a psychiatric injury, filing a California workers’ comp claim or taking FMLA leave could get you back on the right track. If your stress is being caused by employment discrimination or harassment, you may also be eligible to file a workplace discrimination or harassment claim. To find out what your options may be, contact our expert California employment attorneys at Hennig Ruiz for a free consultation today.