Worker’s Compensation Claim for Stress-Related Mental Disorder Denied
The Oregon Court of Appeals last week upheld a ruling that a mental disorder claim brought by a worker alleging emotional and psychological abuse was not compensable.
In April 2017, Audrey King, a software validation engineer at UST Global, and 40 other employees were assigned to a project described as “fast, hectic, chaotic and stressful,” according to documents in In the Audrey J. King Compensation Case, filed in the Oregon Court of Appeals in Salem.
Ms King and her supervisor, identified as “Dash”, started having difficulties shortly after they started working on the project together, Ms King said, claiming that she started to experience symptoms of mental health problems in her. mid-May 2017.
Ms King began seeing a clinical psychologist the following month due to what she described as “an extremely stressful work situation” and symptoms such as hair loss and an inability to sleep, the documents said. The clinical psychologist determined that Ms. King suffered from “Anxiety Adjustment Disorder” due to a “hostile and abnormal work environment”.
Ms King was fired on August 25, 2017 due to downsizing. Three days later, she filed a workers ‘compensation claim which was dismissed by an administrative judge and the state Workers’ Compensation Board.
On appeal, Ms King submitted the psychologist’s opinion that her “hostile and abnormal work environment” was the cause of her mental disorder, citing causative factors including lack of suitable workspace, changing directions and inconsistent with management, Dash’s apparent attempts to undermine Ms. The King, and instances where the supervisor berated her. Several colleagues testified that Dash did not respect or treat Ms. King well.
A second psychologist also diagnosed Ms King with Anxiety Adjustment Disorder, but voiced the opinion that if the first psychologist had neglected her prescription weight loss medications, it would have negatively impacted her ability to ” assess the extent to which her weight loss was attributable to stress at work. The second psychologist further attributed much of Ms King’s distress to “a tendency to react strongly to conflict and stress.”
The Court of Appeal ruled on December 1 that the administrative law judge and the Workers’ Compensation Board had correctly concluded that the claim lacked proper evidence of medical causation.