Bullying is commonly associated with schoolyard behavior among troubled children and teens. But, as many people know too well, bullies do not always grow out of their inappropriate, insulting, and sometimes dangerous behavior. By the time they join the workforce, bullies can make clocking in miserable for the coworkers they target.
If you are being bullied at work and your boss will not intervene – maybe the bully is your boss – you might be wondering if you can find any solace or support through workers’ compensation. Are you allowed to file for workers’ comp benefits because you’re getting bullied in the workplace? In many situations, the answer is no. But there are exceptions and specific situations that change that answer, so it is worth diving into the question a little more.
Why Bullying Doesn’t Warrant Workers’ Comp
Workers’ compensation is an insurance program that is meant to provide for medical costs and a portion of lost wages after an eligible employee is hurt in a workplace accident. Bullying is in no way an accident, so it is difficult to justify workers’ comp for their actions.
Most workplace bullies also never get bold enough to physically harm someone because they know that will probably get them fired and/or arrested within hours. Instead, workplace bullies like to play psychological games with their victims, such as constant belittling or something more subtle like continually calling a coworker by the wrong name. Mental distress is often not enough to justify getting workers’ compensation unless the claimant develops a mental health difficulty due to the course of their employment. For example, police officers and firefighters might qualify for workers’ comp if they are diagnosed with PTSD due to the dramatic and violent experiences they have seen while on-the-clock. But bullying is not “part of the job” so the trauma it can cause is probably not covered.
Rather than trying to get workers’ compensation after being bullied at work, you would likely be better off going to HR. If your employer doesn’t take any adequate steps to protect you from further bullying, then it might be best to call an employment law attorney because it is unlawful for an employer to place you in an unsafe work environment. Of course, if you are in fear of immediate physical harm from a workplace bully, then you should call the authorities first and foremost.
When Workers’ Comp Might Work for Bullying
There are exceptions to every rule, of course. If a workplace bully has physically assaulted you, then there might be a justification for your workers’ compensation claim. Employees can file for workers’ comp when they are attacked and injured by bad actors while on-the-job, especially when that attack was made possible due to their employment conditions.
For example, cashiers who work late shifts in neighborhoods with a high crime rate could be robbed and assaulted by criminals looking for fast cash. If the cashier suffers a physical injury in the robbery, then workers’ compensation coverage should apply and take care of their medical bills. The same basic premise applies to people in other occupations who are attacked in their workplace, including when those attacks come from bullying coworkers.
There is also the chance that you could get workers’ compensation for extreme and threatening bullying that caused you to suffer a mental health difficulty that interfered with your work. Depending on your case, you might be able to get psychotherapy sessions provided through workers’ compensation even though you were not physically injured. Such cases are even more contentious than the typical workers’ compensation claim, though, so working with a lawyer is even more highly recommended than usual.
Workers in Chicago know they can count on Leonard Law Group for reliable representation when faced with a difficult workers’ compensation case. If workplace bullying has caused you to suffer a serious injury, then please contact our firm to explore your legal options.