“Normal Working Conditions” and Workers’ Compensation Cases

8436033413_725b33f832Some jobs are more dangerous than others and some injuries are also more severe than others. While there may be a marked difference between needing some stitches and losing a limb, emotional trauma has caused workers’ compensation regimes throughout the country to take pause in evaluating workers’ compensation awards from those experiencing emotional trauma, particularly post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

Getting Robbed at a Liquor Store = Not Ordinary Course of Business

A notable (and unanimous) Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision entered December 30, 2014 held that being robbed at gunpoint was not part of the normal working conditions of a liquor store employee. The manager of a Morrisville liquor store was apprehended and held at gunpoint while his store was robbed, though no one was physically harmed during the robbery. Regardless, the manager has been off work since, suffering from PTSD and associated emotional trauma. He had been collecting Social Security disability benefits but was initially denied workers’ compensation benefits, being told that “robberies were a ‘normal working condition’” and PTSD from that incident alone could not entitle him benefits.

Legislatures throughout the country have faced similar concerns dealing with emotional trauma and what should be considered part of a normal working condition in certain occupations. In South Carolina, for example, a police officer was originally denied workers’ compensation benefits stemming from an emotional trauma he suffered after a past shooting incident he was involved in. South Carolina administrators determined that for people in law enforcement positions, being involved in a shooting is just “part of the job.”

Unlike some of the battles in other states that fail to recognize emotional trauma as a valid reason to collect workers’ compensation benefits, Pennsylvania courts were more transfixed with the belief that a robbery is “not abnormal and should be expected by employees.” This argument essentially puts robberies up there with something as common as a patron shoplifting or a customer failing to pay their bill. In order for a worker to successfully receive workers’ compensation benefits in Pennsylvania, they must demonstrate that they suffered a work-related injury or illness and that they are unable to work for a specified period of time. The worker must also be acting within the scope of the employment at the time of the alleged illness or injury—something meaning only that the worker was exercising their work-related duties and not doing something personal or non-work related on the employer’s time. It follows, then, that someone working at a liquor store, standing at the register, that suffers an injury that prevents them from being able to work for a certain amount of time should be able to receive workers’ compensation benefits. Whether the issue was with the emotional trauma or the alleged connection and likelihood of robberies at a liquor store, the courts sided with the manager and he is now receiving benefits after a nearly seven-year battle with the state.

Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Lawyers

If you or anyone you know has been injured on the job, you may be entitled to compensation. While some cases, such as the liquor store robbery, are complex, many are relatively simple in comparison. Though some cases are “cut and dry,” so to speak, filing a workers’ compensation claim in Pennsylvania requires a strict compliance with state rules, which require you to notify your employer of the accident or injury and may require you to visit a specific doctor or submit specific documentation. The best way to ensure your paperwork is completed accurately so you can receive benefits as soon as possible is to hire an experienced Pennsylvania workers’ compensation attorney to help you navigate the application process. At Solnick & Associates, LLC, we know the right way to submit your paperwork to ensure you will receive the benefits you are entitled to by law; contact us at our Jenkintown office today and let us help you get back on your feet.


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