Processor fails to connect psychiatric injury, stress to her work
Case name: Knight v. Audubon Savings Bank, No. A-0173-11T1 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 06/26/12, unpublished).
Ruling: In an unpublished decision, the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division held that a processor for a bank was not entitled to benefits for her psychiatric injury that was allegedly caused by work-related stress.
What it means: In New Jersey, to establish a compensable psychiatric claim, a worker must prove that her disability resulted from objectively verified work-related stress.
Summary: A mortgage processor at a bank claimed that she had conflicts with a coworker that escalated when the coworker was promoted to be her supervisor. The processor alleged that the supervisor screamed at her, imposed an excessively burdensome workload on her, and made her job so stressful that it resulted in a psychiatric injury. The processor was diagnosed with adjustment disorder with anxious and depressive features. The processor decided to leave her employment at the bank after she received a negative review. She filed for disability benefits, claiming that she left her job because of the psychiatric stress caused by the supervisor.
The New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division held that the processor was not entitled to benefits.
The court said that the only witness who described highly stressful workplace conditions was the processor. Her statements were refuted by coworkers who said that the processor was resentful of the supervisor. None of the coworkers said that the supervisor screamed at the processor or was unreasonable in her work demands. Also, the processor received favorable reviews of her work for several years.
The court also pointed out that the processor's inaccurate descriptions of the workplace were the basis for the medical opinions provided. Therefore, the medical opinions were unfounded. The court found she failed to establish that her psychiatric disability resulted from job-related stress.
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August 30, 2012
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