Despite there being laws on the books for decades prohibiting it, sexual harassment in the workplace still happens.
Even though North Carolina has a “zero-tolerance policy” for sexual harassment in the workplace, it is still quite common.
Jokes, comments, actions, and other behaviors that are based on an individual’s race, sex, religion, national origin, age, color, disability, or political affiliation can be considered unlawful workplace harassment.
Even though sexual harassment in the workplace can happen to men, it still happens primarily to women.
Employees who experience sexual harassment can suffer both physical and psychological symptoms.
With most sexual harassment claims, though, the symptoms an employee experiences are usually more mental than physical.
Although sometimes the psychological injuries caused by sexual harassment can manifest as physical symptoms.
If an NC sexual assault has occurred, this type of hostile working environment could clearly cause both physical and mental injuries.
The question is whether these types of claims would be covered under North Carolina workers’ compensation laws.
Below, our North Carolina workers’ comp lawyers will go over if sexual assault in the workplace is covered by workers’ compensation in North Carolina.
If you have questions, please contact us today.
Sexual Harassment and Workers’ Compensation
If the sexual harassment has caused psychological injury, the injured employee could submit a workers’ comp claim.
To have a valid mental injury claim, the courts have determined that the claimant must show that the mental injury was due to stresses different from those borne by the public.
Basically, this means that the injured employee must demonstrate that the stress and mental injury they suffer from is more than the daily stress that the average worker experiences.
Put another way, the worker has to show that the conditions of the workplace (in this case, an environment where sexual harassment occurred and was addressed by an employer) caused psychological harm.
North Carolina courts have ultimately held that experiencing stress and mental injury from sexual harassment in the workplace is something that is not unique to the employment environment.
Courts held that because someone can be sexually harassed on and off work, it is not a necessarily compensable claim.
The courts held that the stress has to be unique from work and not able to happen outside of work.
However, the courts have held that mental stress related to the mishandling of harassment complaints could be a valid claim because it can only happen at work.
Basically, the sexual harassment stress itself is not a covered work injury, but the stress from your employer’s negligent investigation, negligent hiring, negligent supervision, or negligent retention would be a valid claim.
Because of the misguided rulings of the appellate courts as described above, this is a good example of why having a knowledgeable North Carolina workers’ comp lawyer on your side is crucial.
With a claim like this, it’s critical to allege the correct facts. And this is something an experienced workers’ comp attorney knows how to do.
What Can a North Carolina Workers’ Comp Lawyer Do For Me?
Work-related mental injuries caused by workplace sexual harassment are some of the most challenging workers’ comp claims to prove and win.
There is a narrow lane of evidence available in every one of these cases, and the evidence has to be handled delicately and presented with care.
One mistake with the evidence on the record will give the workers’ comp judge and the appellate courts an excuse to dismiss the claim as not work-related.
Also, the injured claimant has to be treated fairly and with compassion during the whole workers’ comp hearing process, or there will be an insult to injury.
The whole process could make the injured worker’s condition worse.
But, having an experienced lawyer on your side goes a long way toward having a successful outcome.
A sexual assault at the workplace that causes both physical and mental injuries is a much easier claim to win.
With this kind of case, a claimant doesn’t need to prove that the “stress” was something that could not occur outside of work.
All the claimant would need to demonstrate is that there was a physical assault and that assault caused both physical injuries and psychological trauma.
Contact a North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
If you are suffering from stress, anxiety, and mental injuries due to being sexually harassed at work, the most important thing to do is first have your case reviewed by a skilled North Carolina workers’ comp law firm that focuses its practice on claims like this.
The North Carolina workers’ comp lawyers at Mehta & McConnell have been successfully handling workers’ compensation claims for over 30 years.
There is no harm in contacting us to make sure your employer is treating you fairly.
Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation to learn more about how we can assist you.