A report from the great folks at The Workplace Bullying Institute

January 2nd, 2014

How WC fails workers injured by workplace bullying.

The U.S. Workers Compensation (WC) system is supposed to pay workers injured on the job. However, WC does not give workers a level playing field with employer in America. Injured workers have to file a claim and beg for payment, going without pay during the claims review process that can take a year to complete. The system subjects employees to examination by medical professionals who work exclusively for employers, humiliating scrutiny via surveillance at their homes during private times, and judgments that are completely determined by WC Boards who serve their employer masters.

Here is how WC fails workers injured by workplace bullying.

1) The WC system was created by and for employers to prevent lawsuits against them. That’s why in all states, except Wisconsin, the injured worker must choose between filing a lawsuit or filing a WC claim. Court cases are subject to public scrutiny. Newspapers can be given case details found in court documents. Employers can be shamed for their misconduct. WC cases operate in silence, in the dark, far from public view. Employers can bury their misdeeds in secrecy.

2) Sources of injuries can be physical or psychological. In most states, psychological sources are not WC-recognized injuries. Effects can be physical or psychological. WC recognizes physical-physical and sometimes physical-psychological. But stress which is psychological outcome is being eliminated nationwide through a Chamber of Commerce anti-worker campaign. They are making stress-related claims ineligible.

As it is, most states do not recognize, or it is nearly impossible to succeed with apsychological-psychological WC claim. Since the wounds of bullying are invisible, thus psychological, your state’s WC system may frown on stress-related claims, and therefore, bullying or psychological abuse. Call to ask.

This resistance to these important claims is why WBI has always advised filing WC claims. Try to have your physician help you file for STD – short-term disability insurance. If relief does not come in 90 days, try to extend STD to long-term status until you are safe. Extensions are opposed by employers. If they terminate you during you disability, you can claim violation of state and federal anti-disability discrimination laws. Of course, employers dare you to sue them. They have lawyers, money and time on their side. You don’t.

3) Surveillance of complainants connotes distrust. Employers are calling complainants liars. They treat all claims as fraudulent until proven otherwise. This assumption biases the system against workers. In one case for which I served as expert witness, a veteran railroad worker recovering from spine surgery was ordered to complete a task with a tool missing an important part. The tool weighed 80 pounds. He lifted it to get the job done. The missing part would have allowed him to lift the tool without straining himself. The manager had moved the part (deliberately?). He naturally re-injured himself. He felt obliged to complete the task because of daily production goals that punished workers who slowed the assembly line repair shop. He was fired for injuring himself. Yes, the railroad company said he violated safety standards by hurting himself!!!!

When he filed an injury claim, the company hired a video surveillance team that camped outside his home for months. He rarely came out. He did venture out to attend his daughter’s wedding. Finally, the video team thought they had evidence that he was not truly hurt. They caught him unloading flower pots. The video did not reveal that the flowers were fake silk, featherlight. Nevertheless, the pictures were taken as proof that the worker had lied that he was faking an injury. Subsequently, he had another spine surgery for that “fake” inury.

4) WC judges are pro-business. Psychologists and physicians who review cases as “independent” professionals nearly always find that only “personality conflicts” are responsible for bullying-related claims and are dismissive about psychological abuse at work. The IME and IPE reviewers on WC panels rarely practice psychology or medicine outside their WC work. They are the employers’ allies.

The system is rigged against workers. Workers comp is no more for workers’ benefit than the Clean Air Act protects landowners whose air and water are polluted by fracking gas extraction from their properties knowing that the companies are exempt from compliance with federal environmental protection laws.

See more on this subject and the anti bullying legislation movement here: The Workplace Bullying Institute

And for more about the war on injured workers and our Grand Bargain see: The Demolition of Workers’ Comp

Bullying in the workplace, is something none of us should have to accept and only creates more harm in our World in the long run.