In today’s busy and fast-paced lifestyle, it is no exaggeration to say that stress is a silent killer affecting the wellbeing of millions. Research from the American Psychological Association found that job pressure is the top cause of stress, while also finding that 61% of individuals studied cite work as their most common stress source.

This is perhaps unsurprising when research has regularly found that America is the most overworked nation in the developed world. These realities have tangible implications for the health of workers, as one study astonishingly found that a stressful work environment can reduce life expectancy by as much as 33 years.

Given the real harms caused by stress, you may be left wondering whether you can receive workers’ compensation for stress-related harms or illnesses, just as you could for a physical injury. The short answer is that you may be able to receive stress-related workers’ comp benefits, but the longer answer is you will need to meet a strict set of criteria as outlined by California labor law.

Receiving Workers’ Comp for California Job Stress

California lacks a "stress leave law", but California labor law lets workers file a workers’ comp claim if a "psychiatric injury" was caused by stressors in the workplace.

However, to meet these criteria, the worker’s psychiatric injuries must meet strict and specific criteria set forth by Section 3208.3 of the California Labor Code. To qualify for workers’ compensation benefits because of psychiatric injuries or illnesses, these are a few of the requirements that must all be met:

  • You have six months or more of work history with the employer
  • The psychiatric injuries are rooted in a condition that is listed in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV)
  • The psychiatric condition was not caused by your legal claim
  • You can prove that 51% or more (the "predominant cause") of your condition was caused by events related to what happened on the job
  • The condition was not caused by actions an employer made in a non-discriminatory, good faith manner (examples include reprimands for poor attendance, failing to give the employee a raise, etc.)

As you can see, the criteria are stringent, and it is notable that stress itself is not a DSM-IV condition from a psychiatric perspective. If the stress at work predominantly caused a psychiatric condition as outlined above, however, then you may be able to receive workers’ compensation.

Any stress and/or psychiatric condition workers’ compensation claims in Orange County should be supported by physician testimony and thorough evidence supporting your claim.

Additional Options for Taking Care of Your Health When Stressed

Even if you cannot receive workers’ compensation for stress based on the California Labor Code criteria, you may be able to take unpaid leave that protects your job under both federal and state law.

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and California Family Rights Act (CFRA) alike both can give you this option if your physician finds that job-related stress has become a "serious health condition" for you. If an employer denied your right to take this unpaid, protected job leave or retaliates against you for doing so, then The Ledger Law Firm can help you take legal action if your legal rights are not honored.

Utilizing the FMLA and CFRA can be a great way to step back from work and take care of your health, even if you are not able to receive paid workers’ comp benefits for California work-related stress.

Whether you are suffering from a stress-related psychiatric injury or simply need to take time away as stipulated by the FMLA and CFRA, our team at The Ledger Law Firm will protect your legal rights every step of the way. Contact us online for a legal consultation to discuss your Orange County and California stress leave concerns today.