Workers Comp. Benefits Awarded for Stress
Claim Scenario: Workers Comp. Benefits Awarded for Stress
In a recent ruling, an employee was awarded workers comp benefits for stress. We want to share claim scenario details and court rulings as it could affect your law firm’s insurance. The following is a recently issued ruling on work comp. A policy that awarded benefits to a paralegal for health problems related to stress:
A second-grade teacher should receive limited workers compensation benefits for health problems she says she suffered while working in a stressful classroom, a Pennsylvania court has ruled.
Shirley Hilton worked for the Philadelphia law firm from November 2018 to March 2019. On her last day at the firm, she suffered heart palpitations, headaches, dizziness, and nausea “as a result of a tough day with her challenging work environment,” according to the ruling.
Ms. Hilton went that afternoon to a regularly scheduled appointment with a doctor who had treated her for some time. The doctor’s office called Ms. Hilton’s firm that day and told the partners that she would not be returning to work because of the firm’s “overly stressful environment,” court records show.
A doctor appointed by the law firm treated Ms. Hilton and “made her return” to her regular job in May 2019. Still, she worked only four days upon her return and was not paid beyond the firm’s March date.
In June 2019, the law firm reassigned Ms. Hilton to another position, which she characterized as being quiet with “excellent work… going on,” records show. However, Ms. Hilton did not begin work that September because she said she was still undergoing treatment for the job-related stress she suffered at her previous position.
Ms. Hilton filed a workers comp claim for work injuries she suffered in March 2019, including vocal cord injury, aggravation of pre-existing lupus, heart murmur, and court records show.
A workers comp judge granted Ms. Hilton’s petition after finding her testimony was credible in describing “serious behavioral problems” at the law firm that caused her injuries, records show.
The Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board affirmed the benefit award, and the Philadelphia law firm appealed.
A three-judge panel of the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court affirmed Ms. Hilton’s benefit award on Tuesday. Still, it reversed a portion of the appeals board decision that would have allowed her to receive ongoing benefits.
The appellate court found that testimony from Ms. Hilton’s physician credibly established that she suffered injuries from working at a law firm, including exacerbating her pre-existing lupus in March 2019.
However, the doctor testified that Ms. Hilton was not disabled from working as a paralegal “as long as she did not work somewhere like her former frim,” records show. Therefore, the appellate court granted benefits to Ms. Hilton only from March 2019 to September 2019, when she could have begun working at the less stressful firm or position.