Everyday Job Stress Not Compensable

The Commission recently affirmed the Arbitrator’s decision in a recent case – Job v. State of Illinois/Ann Kiley Center – in which benefits were denied after the Arbitrator found that the Petitioner failed to prove a sudden, severe emotional shock traceable to a definite time, place and cause.

As we recently wrote,  a psychological disability can be compensable, without physical injury or physical contact, but it must arise in a situation of greater dimensions than the day-to-day emotional strain and tension that all employees experience.

In this case, the Petitioner worked as a supervisor for two state-run residential homes for adults with disabilities. She allegedly suffered disabling depression and anxiety due to harassment and stress caused by her supervisors and an increased workload. The Petitioner testified that she complained to her supervisors and requested that she supervise only one home because two homes were too stressful.

The Petitioner testified that she met with her supervisors in her office after she was given a 5-day suspension for disciplinary reasons. The supervisors questioned the Petitioner and assigned her additional work. When the petitioner objected, she was advised of the consequences of her failure to complete the assigned work. The Petitioner subsequently filed an incident report with the facility director and alleged that her supervisors yelled at her, harassed her and threatened her job. She indicated that she felt sick and anxious over the next 10 days and sought treatment. She was diagnosed with anxiety and major depression.

The Arbitrator noted that circumstances were limited for the compensability of a mental disability without any physical injury. In order to do so, a claimant must show that she suffered a severe, sudden, emotional shock traceable to a definite time, place and cause. In this case, the Arbitrator found that the evidence presented failed to reach that level and that the petitioner did not prove a compensable accident that arose out of and in the course of her employment. The Arbitrator’s decision was affirmed and adopted upon review by the Commission.

Thanks to I&F attorney Mark Carter for this case summary.

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