Emotional Injuries – Are They Covered by Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation?

Most Massachusetts workplace injuries are covered by workers’ compensation benefits. On-the-job accidents, such as chemical burns, falls from high places, inhalation of toxic fumes, being struck by an object, and work-vehicle accidents can result in serious physical injuries and even death. But what about emotional injuries? In Massachusetts, mental and emotional injuries are typically covered by workers’ compensation if they result from eligible workplace events. Contact a Boston Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Today.

A recent MA workers’ comp claim filed by a Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department employee highlights a notable exception in the Massachusetts workers’ comp statute. Joseph Upton, a jail officer who started working at the sheriff’s department in 1991, was terminated after a jail assault investigation revealed that he had filed false reports about the incident. However, upon following a grievance, his job was reinstated in 2001. Upton was scheduled to receive back pay, minus any unemployment benefits he received while not working. Although the sheriff’s department appealed the award of back pay, the MA Supreme Court upheld the award in 2008.

Upon reinstatement, Upton was required to submit a signed document that detailed his unemployment earnings while off work. However, after learning that the jail officer may have underreported outside earnings, the sheriff’s department requested that Upton meet with investigators to discuss his signed statement. Immediately following the meeting, Upton went to the hospital, complaining of chest pains and shortness of breath. Shortly after, Upton filed a workers’ comp claim, requesting benefits for emotional injuries suffered as a result of the stressful investigation.

Injuries Resulting from ‘Personnel Action’ are Not Covered

Upton’s claim for benefits was denied by the administrative law judge because his disability was the result of a “bona fide personnel action.” Chapter 152 of the Massachusetts workers’ comp statute specifically states, “No mental or emotional disability arising principally out of a bona fide, personnel action including a transfer, promotion, demotion, or termination except such action which is the intentional infliction of emotional harm shall be deemed to be a personal injury within the meaning of this chapter.” As Upton’s meeting with investigators was deemed a “personnel action,” his injuries weren’t eligible for benefits. This case serves as a reminder that Massachusetts employees are not eligible to receive workers’ comp benefits for injuries that occurred due to a normal personnel action, including investigative procedures. This is even true for physical injuries, such as chest pains or shortness of breath.

Altman & Altman, LLP – Massachuestts Workers’ Compensation Law Firm for Over 50 Years.

In short, emotional injuries are covered by workers’ compensation in the state of Massachusetts. However, as with any injury, certain exclusions do exist. If you have received emotional or physical injuries in a workplace incident, it is in your best interest to contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney without delay. At Altman & Altman, LLP, we have been fighting for the rights of Boston’s workforce for nearly 50 years. This is a complex, and constantly evolving area of the law. It is essential to work with an attorney that has extensive experience in employment law. Our legal team will assess the details of your case and position you for the best possible outcome. It is our goal to get you the compensation you deserve. Contact Altman & Altman, LLP today for a free consultation about your case.



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