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  • Dave Brown, Esquire
  • 07/20/2015

You’re excited to start your new job, but soon find out that your boss is unbearable – overly demanding and constantly critical of your work.   Nothing you do is good enough, and you’re yelled at frequently.   The pressure that you feel is relentless.  With each passing week, it becomes more and more difficult for you to make it to work and do your job.  Your productivity declines, and you receive warnings, in which you are threatened with termination unless your work improves.

As a result of your work environment, you begin to experience anxiety and depression.  You go to your family doctor, who prescribes medication for your mental symptoms, and refers you to a psychiatrist, whom you see.   The psychiatrist adds another medication.  However, your boss does not let up, and your symptoms persist.  You hang in there at work, but occasionally have to call out sick because you’re too anxious and depressed.  Finally, you cannot take it anymore and quit your job.

Are you entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits because you have suffered stress and anxiety as a result of your environment at work, which eventually rendered you unable to perform your job?   Under well-established workers’ compensation law in Pennsylvania, you are almost certainly not entitled to benefits.

When a person sustains a physical injury at work – for example, a strained back, broken foot, or torn rotator cuff – as long as the injury occurred in the course of the person’s employment and is disabling, the employer is required to pay the injured worker wage loss and medical benefits.  But when a person alleges a mental injury, such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder, the burden of proof is much higher.  It must be established that the person’s mental symptoms are caused by “abnormal working conditions.”  Our courts have set the bar high for what constitutes abnormal working conditions.   They have emphasized that work, by its nature, is stressful, and unless a person can show that working conditions were objectively abnormal, a workers’ compensation claim will most likely fail.

If a supervisor engages in a pattern of sexual harassment towards an employee, that may constitute abnormal working conditions.  If a person is subjected to an extraordinary event, such as being robbed at gunpoint, that may qualify – but not necessarily.  Our courts have held that for employment events to be considered abnormal, they must be considered in relation to that specific employment.   It may be difficult to fathom, but if a pizza delivery person who works in high crime neighborhoods is subjected to an armed robbery, benefits may be denied because a robbery is not an abnormal event for that particular job.   Furthermore, a police officer who alleges suffering from severe psychological symptoms as a result of investigating murders and seeing dead bodies at crime scenes is probably not entitled to benefits because, horrifying as it sounds, that’s the nature of a policeman’s job.   Likewise, day-to-day stress in the work place caused by a nasty supervisor who has exceedingly high expectations does not rise to the level of “abnormal working conditions.”

Contact Pearson Koutcher Law – Experienced Pennsylvania Workplace Injury Lawyers

At Pearson Koutcher Law, our Philadelphia Workers Compensation attorney have extensive experience representing client injured in all types of workplace accidents and as a result of various on-the job hazardous conditions. We understand the complexities of medical diagnoses and work hand –in-hand with your medical care provider to properly address your needs and get you the benefits you deserve under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act. Call us to today at 215-627-0700 to set up an appointment with one of our knowledgeable lawyers to discuss your rights under your Act.