AJ did not exceed authority addressing harassment incident at hearing
McCarty's Case, No. 08-P-2101 (Mass. App. Ct. 10/13/09, unpublished).
Ruling: In an unpublished decision, the Massachusetts Appeals Court affirmed the denial of workers' compensation benefits for a psychological injury allegedly arising from harassment by the employee's supervisor.
What it means:
In Massachusetts, where an incident has been brought up continuously in an employee's workers' compensation claim and addressed in testimony by both sides, an administrative judge does not necessarily abuse his discretion by including it as part of the claim.
Summary: A Verizon employee claimed his new supervisor followed him around and would "check up" on him. The employee was involved in a single-car accident when he checked his rearview mirror to see if the supervisor was following him and hit a guardrail in the company van. At the hospital, he tested positive for opiates and admitted to regular heroin use to hospital personnel. When the employee returned home, the supervisor showed up unannounced and would not leave until the employee's father threatened to call the police. After his workers' compensation claim was denied for serious misconduct, the employee alleged the administrative judge improperly referenced the supervisor's visit to his home in connection to his claim for psychological injuries from the alleged harassment. He claimed the AJ abused his discretion in addressing the incident.
The Massachusetts Appeals Court rejected the employee's argument, holding that the incident was sufficiently referenced at the hearing. The court noted the employee did not object to adding the psychiatric claim after his physical injury claim failed. The court also noted the hearing included testimony from the employee regarding the supervisor's visit, the supervisor was cross-examined about the incident, doctor's records mentioning the supervisor's visit were included at the hearing, and the employee's doctor was asked about the incident and its effect on the psychological health of the employee. The court further pointed out that the incident occurred only one week after the car accident and was part of the "overall tenor of the employee's psychiatric claim based on supervisor harassment." The court therefore found no abuse of discretion in the inclusion of the incident to the overall psychiatric claim.
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November 30, 2009
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