Understanding your rights: Missouri workers' compensation law & mental injuries

file1801281015946.jpgMost Missouri workers' compensation claims stem from workplace accidents that cause physical injuries, or from occupational diseases caused by workplace conditions. However, there is another kind of injury that can pose a threat to employees: mental or psychological injuries. Mental illnesses are much more prevalent than many people realize. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that one in four adults - or about 61 million Americans - deal with mental health issues every year. And according to the American Psychological Association (APA), mental injuries are one of the top ten work-related injuries and illnesses reported by employees nationwide.

In recent years, federal and state agencies - along with employers and employees - have become more educated about mental illnesses and the way they can impact an individual's overall health (and their job productivity). This increased knowledge has led to heightened awareness of work -related stress disorders that can ultimately manifest themselves as mental illnesses. As a result, several states have amended their workers' compensation laws accordingly, authorizing employees who suffer from job-related mental health issues to seek workers' comp benefits.

Understanding your rights: Missouri workers' compensation law and mental injuries

Under §287.120, 8 and 9, RSMo:

"Mental injury resulting from work-related stress does not arise out of and in the course of the employment, unless it is demonstrated that the stress is work related and was extraordinary and unusual. The amount of work stress shall be measured by objective standards and actual events."

"A mental injury is not considered to arise out of and in the course of the employment if it resulted from any disciplinary action, work evaluation, job transfer, layoff, demotion, termination or any similar action taken in good faith by the employer."

In other words, claimants must demonstrate that stress is "extraordinary and unusual" to be awarded compensation for mental injuries.

Mental injuries in Missouri workplaces: A few real-life examples

• A Missouri woman filed a workers' compensation claim after she suffered a panic attack on the job. Ultimately, the Labor and Industrial Relations Commission awarded her workers' comp benefits. Because of the poor condition of her work environment - and because her direct supervisor was her ex-husband - the Commission ruled that her mental stress was "extraordinary and unusual" in comparison to the mental stress of her coworkers.