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Workers' compensation for on-the-job stress

With companies working hard to save money by piling immense loads of work on a small number of workers, it's no wonder that many Californians are feeling burned out. Demands from the workplace are taking their toll and workplace stress is now at an all-time high - so much so that many states now offer workers' compensation benefits for stress.

California is one state that considers mental stress a workplace illness for workers' compensation benefits. That's because too much stress can lead to a full-blown mental disorder or even a physical condition. However, having a workers' compensation claim approved for stress-related conditions is not easy. In fact, it's gotten even tougher in recent years, since any employee can claim on-the-job stress.

In order for a claim to be eligible for benefits, there must now be significant evidence showing that the employee encountered abnormally high levels of stress throughout his or her employment. Having to perform normal daily duties does not constitute stress according to workers' compensation law. For most cases, the person must have been employed with the company for a minimum of six months for a valid stress claim.

While some forms of stress are caused by one-time incidents, such as trauma caused by acts of violence, some are ongoing. Many employees are stressed out due to unrealistic workloads, poor communication, fear of layoffs, sexual harassment and incompetent management. Others are more prone to stress due to health conditions, family issues and simply their personality in general. Although running a business can be demanding, companies need to do more to hold onto their most important assets - their employees.

Source: State of California Department of Industrial Relations, "Preventing Psychiatric Injuries," accessed July 11, 2015

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