Preventing Legal Claims for Personal Injury Owing to Work Stress
US employees are among the most stressed in the world, as found in a Gallup State of the Global Workplace report. Around 57% of workers feel stress daily, compared to 43% on a global scale. Factors such as big workloads, a lack of balance between one’s work and personal life, and interpersonal conflicts in the workplace can all contribute to this issue. Work stress has big personal and economic costs, with statistics indicating that American companies lose over $300 billion per year because of this issue. How can your business avoid a personal injury claim owing to stress?
Table of Contents
What Does the Law Say About Legal Claims of Stress?
Managers in the US now have a legal obligation to recognize and deal with worker stress. Many state laws specifically mention compensation for stress-related work injuries. The California labor code, for instance, mentioned compensation for injuries caused by “repetitive mentally or physically traumatic activities extending over a period of time, the combined effect of which causes any disability or need for medical treatment.” In the past, courts looked to discover a specific, identifiable accident when work compensation claims were brought. In recent history, however, courts have accepted the idea of “repetitive events,” no one of which is solely responsible for causing the psychological damage that can arise from stress. Of course, the stress of bringing a legal claim would not be taken into account in a workers’ compensation or personal injury claim. It is well established that lawsuits and medical problem are stressful, but the plaintiff would have to establish continued or repeated exposure to stress at or owing to work.
Embracing a Stress-Prevention Strategy at Work
Managers wishing to avoid legal claims for stress-related injury should establish a sound preventive strategy. The first steps to take include studying established law, with all its loopholes and conflicting cases. When in doubt, they should play on the safe side to ensure that their duty of care for their employees is fulfilled. They should also identify the times they are in, and the issues that may sway the court in the plaintiff’s favor. For instance, cuts to health insurance benefits could lead courts to make more liberal decisions with respect to compensation claims. These issues should be discussed with legal staff to identify trends and patterns that should play a determinative role in a company’s strategy.
Providing Employees with Clarity
Employees who are battling stress should know who to turn to and should already know what resources are available to them. Forward-thinking companies can include mental health coverage as part of their health care plan. Giving workers access to a network of psychologists and psychiatrists can help them feel safe and can reassure them that their issues will be kept confidential. Companies that establish an employee assistance program for mental health can offer this resource to family members as well. They should let employees know relevant contact numbers and reiterate that the resource is free. Confidentiality and privacy should be guaranteed at every step of the way, to eliminate fear, shame, and stigma.
Creating a supportive corporate culture that supports mental health also depends on building a healthy, happy team. Approaches seen as ‘perks’ by some companies (such as team building events, in-office yoga classes, meditation breaks, and natural areas in which to ease the mind) can have powerful effects on employee satisfaction. All these approaches indicate that companies are aware that workers can experience stress, but that managers are willing to find ways to help reduce this issue and its impacts.
At The End
Work stress is rampant in the US, as it is in many countries across the globe. Long-term or severe stress is linked to a host of serious health issues and to lost productivity, absenteeism, and smaller revenues. Companies wishing to avoid legal liability for work stress should introduce a watertight work stress strategy at work, offer key resources to employees, and consider enriching the company culture, while also strengthening bonds between team members.