Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Abnormal Working Conditions

The Commonwealth Court decided a case recently on what constitutes an abnormal working condition. As we’ve blogged about before, an employee can claim a work related injury for mental trauma; however, the claimant must show that an abnormal working condition caused the trauma.

Merely having something bad happen at work does not necessarily translate into an abnormal working condition. For example, in prior cases, the Courts have held that a police officer suffering from post traumatic stress disorder due to being engaged in a gun battle with criminals was not an abnormal working condition because police officers often are involved in gun battles. Also, being yelled at by your boss significantly does not constitute an abnormal working condition.

In my opinion, in the case of McLaurin v WCAB (SEPTA), the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania unjustifiably restricted, once again, the definition of “abnormal working conditions.” In this case, a bus driver was assaulted by several hooded young men with guns. Due to this, the claimant suffered post traumatic stress disorder as well as psychological problems.

The employer presented evidence which showed that such occurrences were not extraordinary and did happen somewhat often while being a bus driver, despite the fact that it did not happen ever to this particular bus driver. The Court held that this occurrence was not an abnormal working condition.

In my opinion, I think the Court is completely off base. The injured worker was a bus driver. He was not in law enforcement or in any type of position where he would receive the training and skills to cope with such a happening. Once again, this is evidence of the Commonwealth Court severely limiting the rights of injured workers.

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