Are Mental Health Issues Covered by Workers Compensation in California?
California is known for having some of the most employee-friendly workers’ compensation laws in the country. And one area of workers compensation law that is more progressive in California than other states is mental health coverage. California is one of the few states that provides coverage for mental health conditions related to work-related stress – even in the absence of a physical injury.
In most other states, workers may only be able to receive benefits for mental health conditions if they can prove that the condition was caused by a physical injury.
In this article, the experienced workers’ compensation attorneys at the Law Offices of Cantrell Green explain when (and how) injured workers may qualify for workers compensation for mental health conditions in California.
California Law on Mental Health Conditions & Workers Compensation
The specific California law that provides coverage for mental health conditions related to work-related stress is California Labor Code section 3208.3. This law was enacted in 1993 and provides that “stress, if it is caused by actual events of employment, is a compensable injury.” This means that if a worker experiences stress as a result of their job duties, they may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits – even if there is no accompanying physical injury.
But in order to be eligible for benefits under Labor Code section 3208.3, the worker must meet certain very specific requirements. In other words, workers compensation for mental health conditions is never “automatic”. And, in fact, it is often much harder to obtain than workers compensation benefits for physical injuries.
Workers Compensation Requirements for Mental Health Conditions
First, to be approved for workers compensation, the employee must have been diagnosed with a mental health condition by a licensed psychiatrist or psychologist. Next, they must show that the mental health condition was caused by actual events of employment, such as job-related harassment, discrimination, or trauma. And, most difficultly, they must show that the mental health condition is not a result of their personal life or other non-work-related factors.
The ‘burden of proof’ is on the worker to demonstrate that their mental health condition is work-related and compensable under the law. In other words, it is the responsibility of the employee to provide evidence to demonstrate that their claim is true.
Providing this evidence and meeting this “burden of proof” can be difficult – especially for someone who is already dealing with a mental illness. For a patient with anxiety, depression, PTSD or other mental health struggles, providing extensive medical evidence and documentation can often be overwhelming. This is one of many reasons that it is so important to have your workers compensation case handled by a skilled and experienced workers compensation attorney.
Common Mental Health Conditions Qualifying for Workers Compensation
It is important to note that workers may only be eligible for benefits for certain mental health conditions under Labor Code section 3208.3. However, this law does expressly provide coverage for a range of mental health conditions related to work-related stress, as follows:
Acute Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): This can occur after an individual experiences or witnesses a traumatic event, such as a violent crime or a natural disaster, in the course of their employment.
Chronic PTSD: This can develop over time as a result of exposure to ongoing stressors in the workplace, such as bullying, harassment, or discrimination.
Depression and anxiety: These conditions can be caused by a variety of work-related stressors, including job-related trauma, hostile work environments, and excessive workloads.
Adjustment disorders: These are emotional or behavioral responses to a significant life stressor, such as a job loss or a workplace injury.
Sleep disorders: These can result from chronic stress, anxiety, or depression related to work.
However, Labor Code section 3208.3 specifically excludes coverage for mental health conditions that are solely the result of lawful, nondiscriminatory personnel actions, such as performance evaluations or disciplinary actions.
Cases Where Employees Got Workers Compensation for Mental Health
There have been several cases in which workers’ compensation benefits were approved for mental health conditions under California Labor Code section 3208.3. For example, in the case of County of San Bernardino v. Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board, an employee was diagnosed with PTSD after being held hostage during a workplace shooting. The court determined that the employee’s PTSD was a compensable injury under Labor Code section 3208.3.
In another case, Holly D. v. Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board, an employee who worked as a 911 dispatcher was diagnosed with depression and anxiety after being exposed to numerous stressful and traumatic calls. The court found that the employee’s mental health conditions were compensable under Labor Code section 3208.3.
These cases demonstrate that workers who have experienced work-related mental health conditions may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits under California law.
Why Hire a Workers Compensation Attorneys for Mental Health Benefits
It is essential for a claimant seeking workers’ compensation for mental health disability under California Labor Code section 3208.3 to speak to an experienced California workers’ compensation attorney because this law imposes unique requirements and challenges that may not be present in other types of workers’ compensation claims.
Remember, under California law, a claimant must prove that their mental health injury was caused by their employment. This can be challenging, as mental health injuries may not have an obvious physical cause and can be attributed to personal factors outside of work. An experienced attorney can help gather evidence that shows how the claimant’s work environment or work-related stressors contributed to their mental health injury.
California Labor Code section 3208.3 also lists specific mental health conditions that are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety. An experienced attorney can help the claimant understand whether their particular mental health condition qualifies for workers’ compensation benefits under this law.
Additionally, mental health disabilities can have significant long-term consequences, including lost income, medical expenses, and decreased quality of life. An experienced attorney can help the claimant maximize their workers’ compensation benefits, including wage replacement, medical treatment, and vocational rehabilitation services now and as they are needed in the future.
Workers Compensation Attorneys for Mental Health
California’s workers’ compensation law is relatively unique in providing coverage for mental health conditions related to work-related stress. This is an important protection for workers who may be experiencing significant psychological distress as a result of their job duties. However, the eligibility requirements can be complex, and workers may face challenges in obtaining the benefits they need – so call the experienced California workers compensation attorneys at Cantrell Green to ensure your rights are protected and you receive the maximum benefits for which you may qualify.
Your consultation with our experienced workers’ compensation attorneys is 100% confidential, and neither your employer nor your insurance company will be notified that you requested a consultation with us. Our attorneys will help you understand your rights and work tirelessly to ensure that you receive the maximum workers’ compensation benefits for which you qualify.
California Workers Compensation Attorneys: 800-964-8047