Worker fails to link post-traumatic stress disorder with harassment
Peters v. Wal-Mart, No. 93A02-1207-EX-0562 (Ind. Ct. App. 12/19/12, unpublished).
Ruling: In an unpublished decision, the Indiana Court of Appeals held that a worker for a retail store was not entitled to benefits for her psychological or other injuries.
What it means: In Indiana, intentional harassment that gives rise to an accidental injury at work can be compensable, but the fact that an injury happens at work does not automatically render it compensable.
Summary: A worker for a retail store was involved in several disputes with coworkers and managers. She was injured when a clothing rack near her was suddenly moved. She was placed on light duty but wanted to return to a regular work assignment. Her previous position was unavailable, so she was assigned to work in another section of the store. The work did not suit her, and she had more conflicts with coworkers. While working as an overnight stockperson, she complained of having chest pains to her supervisor. An altercation ensued between the worker and her supervisor. In the emergency room, she was diagnosed as having a panic attack and being anemic. She did not return to work. Later, she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. The worker sought workers' compensation benefits, asserting that her PTSD was due to harassment from her supervisor. The Indiana Court of Appeals held that she was not entitled to benefits.
The court could not conclude that the worker's psychological disorders were caused by confrontations initiated by coworkers. The court noted that the Workers' Compensation Board found that the worker initiated the confrontations.
The court also could not conclude that the worker's injuries arose from intentional harassment. The court explained that the fact that an injury occurs at work does not automatically render it compensable. A doctor who performed an independent medical examination opined that what felt like a panic attack was the symptoms of anemia.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
April 1, 2013
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