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Your Employee Matters


By April 1, 2008July 2nd, 2021No Comments

The case of Verga v. United Airlines started off asking this question: Do the disdainful reactions of a supervisor and co-workers to an employee’s mistreatment of them constitute “actual events of employment,” for which the employee can obtain Workers Compensation benefits, to compensate for the psychological stress that the employee experiences because of those disdainful reactions to her inappropriate conduct? In other words, can they cause the problem and then still get paid?

In answering this question the court stated the following:

  • Although the Workers Compensation system generally provides benefits regardless of the fault of any party, there are limits when an employee intentionally causes his or her own injury. To allow an employee to harass co-workers and, then when they respond unfavorably, claim the stress-related injury to the employee’s psyche would increase, not reduce, Workers Compensation claims and create the potential for abuse of the system.
  • An employee’s false perceptions of the working environment do not constitute actual events of employment coverable by the Workers Compensation Act. Mental disabilities are compensable only when arising out of actual events of employment, not unfounded perceptions such as Verga’s claim that she was harassed and persecuted.

This decision is consistent with those found throughout employment law. Hypersensitive claimants, whether for Workers Compensation stress, sexual harassment, discrimination, or other maladies, are viewed as unreasonable by the courts. As the court stated, “In sum, the evidence established that Verga had a very low frustration level and abused her co-workers when they did not meet her expectations. Although her co-workers reacted with disdain in their efforts to change Verga’s behavior, their disdain was relatively benign. Verga was the aggressor, and she created the negative work atmosphere that she asserts caused her psychological injuries.”

Read about Verga v. United Airlines here.