Work is one of the greatest stressors in any person’s life. Psychological stress and anxiety often lead to mental disorders, physical ailments or both. For this reason, California is one of the few states with statutes that permit psychiatric workers’ compensation claims.
Per the State of California Department of Industrial Relations Division of Workers’ Compensation, California law permits compensation for a wide range of disabilities resulting from job-related mental stress. Disabilities may be physical or mental in nature, or both. However, lawmakers have recently revised the statutes to tighten eligibility requirements and to create a higher threshold of evidence for plaintiffs who file workers’ compensation claims for psychological injuries. The American Bar Association details what that threshold looks like.
Pursuant to California labor law, a worker may receive benefits for a psychiatric injury if he or she can show that a diagnosed mental disorder exists that caused the disability or the need for treatment. Furthermore, the worker must prove that job-related activities were the principal cause (51%) of the injury, if not the sole cause. To prove this, the employee has the burden to provide the workers’ comp insurer with evidence of prior medical history, personal and/or family issues and financial and/or medical issues.
Moreover, claimants must provide a physician’s testimony that is based on a detailed review of his or her background, such as personal problems, developmental history, performance reviews and job satisfaction. The physician’s report must include personal records, coworkers’ statements, depositions, academic and military records, psychometric test data and interviews with loved ones.
Finally, for a worker to have a valid stress claim, he or she must have worked for the employer for at least six months prior to the injury. However, this employment need not have been continuous. California statutes do provide an exception to this rule, which is that if work conditions were so extraordinary or sudden as to cause the psychiatric injury, the worker may have a valid claim regardless of the length of time he or she worked for the employer.