If you have experienced extreme stress while at work, you may be asking yourself, does workers’ comp cover emotional distress in California? Workplace injuries do not always have to be purely physical. The state workers’ compensation programs cover injuries of all types.

Workers have the right to file a claim for injuries that result from emotional distress. These are also known as stress claims. Claims that are based on purely psychological conditions can be difficult to prove. Having an experienced workers’ compensation attorney in your corner can help you successfully file a claim for emotional distress.

Does workers comp cover emotional distress in California?

How Does an Emotional Distress Claim Work?

An emotional distress claim is a valid claim for workers’ compensation in the state. Psychological injuries may make it difficult to perform normal work duties. This can happen for a wide range of reasons. The employee may have worked to the point of exhaustion. A hostile work environment may have led to significant mental duress because someone made threats in the workplace.

While the state workers’ compensation system covers stress claims, workers will find that the rules are a little different. Physical injuries are often more straightforward to diagnose. An x-ray, for example, can clearly show the signs of a bone injury. Imaging tests generally are unable to show the results of a stress-related injury.

In order to qualify for benefits under the state’s workers’ compensation program, workers must meet certain guidelines outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The worker must also demonstrate that their employment predominantly led to their psychiatric condition. This means that more than 50% of the conditions that led to the disorder were work-related.

Reasonable criticism of an employee is generally not grounds for filing a stress injury claim. Reasonable personnel actions include:

  • Poor performance evaluations.
  • Attendance issues.
  • Problems with being punctual.
  • Denial or a promotion for legitimate reasons.

An employee filing stress-related claims will have to demonstrate that their mental duress is not the result of normal disciplinary actions or legitimate criticism at work. The workers’ compensation program cannot be the cause of a stress-related injury.

Once the worker is able to show that their psychological anguish was caused by something work-related, they will have to demonstrate that they suffered harm. Having to seek medical treatment is often sufficient to show that true harm resulted from the condition.

Stress alone is not a psychiatric condition. It is often a symptom of a diagnosable condition, such as clinical depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, or generalized anxiety disorder. An experienced workers’ compensation lawyer can help navigate the workers’ compensation program if you have a qualifying condition that results from time at work. You may be entitled to benefits even if you were fired due to your mental anguish at work.

The Importance of Physician Testimony

To bolster your claim, you will need testimony from a physician that supports your workers’ compensation claim. The diagnosis should be supported with notes about your job history, job satisfaction, health history, and workplace conditions. The doctor’s written notes should be backed by evidence that includes statements from witnesses, co-workers, relatives, and other forms of evidence.

Types of Workers’ Comp Benefits for Psychiatric Injuries

Similar to physical injuries, psychiatric injuries can lead to various forms of compensation from your workers’ compensation program. With the help of your workers’ compensation attorney, you can file a claim that leads to payments for medical treatments. If you require time off work to recover, your claim can lead to weekly payments that partially cover your missed time from work.

One area where stress injuries differ significantly is in regard to permanent disability benefits. Once you are away from the work environment that caused you stress, policyholders generally assume that your recovery will be rather quick.

If you have concerns about protecting your rights under the state’s workers’ compensation program, you can rely on the legal services of a Cathedral City workers’ compensation attorney to ensure that you receive the benefits you are entitled to.


Q: Is Stress Covered Under Workers’ Comp?

A: Stress is covered under California’s workers’ compensation program. Psychiatric injuries can result from a toxic work environment or overwork. Proving that you are eligible for this type of compensation can be more difficult than a physical injury. You will need to demonstrate that the mental duress resulted from time at work and that you suffered injury as a result.

Q: Can I Claim Compensation for Stress at Work?

A: You are entitled to compensation for stress at work once you qualify under the state’s workers’ compensation program. Proving that you have a psychiatric injury requires corroboration from a physician. The doctor will have to confirm that you have developed a diagnosable mental condition as a result of time at work.

Q: What Injuries Are Not Covered by Workers’ Compensation?

A: Self-inflicted injuries may not be covered by a workers’ compensation policy. Any injury that results from misconduct or horseplay will likely not be covered. Common colds and flu are considered an expected work hazard and are generally not grounds for filing a workers’ compensation claim. Lastly, any injury incurred while drunk or intoxicated will not be covered under workers’ compensation.

Q: How Do You Prove Stress in the Workplace?

A: Proving stress at the workplace requires that a physician confirms the details of your workers’ compensation claim. The doctor’s testimony will need to describe your psychiatric injury and confirm when the symptoms arose. Using evidence, you will have to show that the injury was largely (more than 51%) the result of time spent at work. You can also use the testimony of others to prove stress at the workplace caused a psychiatric injury.

Schedule Your Stress-related Workers’ Compensation Consultation

Not all work-related injuries are physical. If you were subjected to repetitive threats at work or had to put in long hours that led to mental exhaustion, you could be eligible for benefits under the state’s workers’ compensation program. To protect your rights throughout the claims process, you can rely on the trusted legal counsel of English Lloyd & Armenta. To schedule your consultation, contact our office today.