Can You Get Workers’ Compensation for Harassment in Pennsylvania?
September 16, 2023 | Workers’ Compensation
Workers’ compensation is generally associated with an employee’s physical injury or occupational illness. However, workers’ compensation benefits may also be available for workers who are victims of harassment at work. Persistent and severe harassment can result in adverse psychological and physical conditions that could prevent employees from performing their duties.
Most employers in Pennsylvania are required to purchase workers’ compensation insurance coverage for their employees. If you are unsure whether your situation could be covered by workers’ compensation, you can get free legal advice from a York workers’ compensation lawyer during a free consultation.
What Is Harassment in the Workplace?
Harassment includes behavior or words that demean, intimidate, or threaten someone. The conduct is uninvited, unwelcome, and unwanted. The behavior or words can cause alarm, nuisance, or substantial emotional distress.
When the harassment is based on a protected class, it is a form of employment discrimination under state and federal laws. Protected classes include:
- Age (beginning at 40 years old)
- National origin
- Sex (including sexual orientation, pregnancy, and gender identity)
- Genetic information (including family medical history)
Petty comments and isolated incidents may not rise to the level of harassment. Harassment becomes unlawful when it creates a work environment that is hostile, intimidating, or abusive to a reasonable person or when tolerating the harassment becomes a condition for continued employment.
Sexual harassment is a common form of workplace harassment. However, harassment can also include offensive jokes, intimidation, slurs, insults, distribution of offensive materials, mockery, ridicule, and physical assaults or threats. Employers can be liable for harassment in the workplace, including workers’ compensation claims based on harassment.
Workers’ Compensation for Harassment in Pennsylvania
A job can be extremely stressful on its own. However, when the stress is caused by harassment or bullying, employees might be entitled to workers’ compensation if the harassment rises to the level of a psychological injury.
Some states do not recognize mental injury for workers’ compensation claims. Pennsylvania is one of the states that covers psychological injuries under workers’ comp if the injury affects the worker’s ability to perform their job.
A psychological or mental injury workers’ comp claim could be based upon:
- A physical injury resulting in ongoing emotional distress and mental anguish associated with the event makes it difficult or impossible to perform job duties.
- Severe mental distress that results in physical conditions, such as high blood pressure, chronic headaches, and ulcers.
- Psychological trauma experienced in the workplace, such as a mass shooting, building collapse, or fire.
Harassment at work would probably fall under the category of mental injury or psychological trauma. Generally, workers would need to prove that their work situation is abnormal for mental injuries to be covered by workers’ compensation insurance.
What Should You Do if Harassment at Work Causes a Mental Injury?
Psychological injuries caused by harassment at work are difficult to prove. If you are under abnormal stress at work because of harassment, see your doctor immediately. Your doctor can refer you to a mental health professional who can diagnose a psychological condition.
Keep a journal recording the details of workplace harassment or bullying. Ensure you include the dates and details for each event, including what was said or done, how you handled the situation, and whether there were any witnesses. Also, record how the harassment impacts you physically, such as having panic attacks, insomnia, or migraines.
Follow your company’s rules and procedures for reporting harassment and bullying. Write down the date and time of your report and the person receiving the report. Ask for a copy of the written report for your records.
Schedule a free consultation with a York workers’ compensation lawyer to discuss your situation. An attorney will explain your legal options and advise you on steps you can take to protect your rights.
Workers’ compensation claims based on harassment can be tough to win. However, hiring an experienced lawyer gives you the best chance of receiving benefits for harassment.
Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Benefits for a Psychological Injury Caused by Workplace Harassment
You can receive the same workers’ comp benefits for a psychological injury that you would receive for a physical injury. Benefits available for a work-related psychological injury include:
- Medical treatment for a psychological condition
- Wage-loss benefits if the condition prevents you from returning to work
- Vocational training for a new job, if necessary
- Benefits for permanent impairments caused by psychological injury
Workers’ compensation insurance companies and employers do not like to pay claims for any injury. They aggressively fight claims for psychological injuries on the job because those claims are more difficult to prove. However, with the help of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney, you can prove that the harassment you experienced at work is the cause of your mental injury.
Contact the Workers’ Compensation Lawyers In Pennsylvania at Marzzacco Niven & Associates For Legal Help With Your Case Today
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