Emotional Distress

Usually diagnosed by a psychiatrist or psychologist. Claimants must “prove up” their claimed “compensable factors.”

“Compensable factors” are work factors or events that occur at work that form the basis of your disabling emotional condition. These events can be what you might consider to be everyday work activities. For example, working an extra two hours everyday for 3 months, plus Saturdays, in order to complete a project, can be a compensable factor. Over the course of that project you become tired, anxious, overwhelmed or depressed because of all the work you are trying to get done. The simple fact of working these long hours can become a compensable factor supporting your claim for disabling emotional distress.

A single event can be a “compensable factor” that disables you for work. For example, a supervisor comes up behind you and puts his hands inside your clothes, groping you. This sexual assault causes you to become fearful of going to work, gives you nightmares of being assaulted again, and you cannot sleep at night. You become so upset that one day you cannot bring yourself to get out of your car in the parking lot at work, you sit in your car crying, clenching the steering wheel, or simply shaking all over, after 30 minutes, you drive home and lock yourself in your house. You do not return to work. This one groping event leads to a diagnosis of anxiety, depression, or other disabling psychological condition. This single event can become a “compensable factor” if you can prove it occurred in the first place.

Multiple events, occurring over and over can become multiple “compensable factors.” Has your supervisor continually changed your assignment at the last minute – usually increasing your workload – and then admonished you for not getting things done on time? Have you been assigned job duties for which you did not have the proper training? Has you supervisor levied disciplinary actions against you for things that were later fully overturned when you grieved those actions? Has you supervisor berated you for minor events, embarrassing you in front of all your co-workers? Has she tagged you with a derogatory nickname such as “the old grey mare,” “silver fox,” “sexy lady,” “toy boy,” or “my little chick-a-dee.” These re-occurring events cause you anxiety, a fear of going to work, embarrassment at work, anger, frustration and depression. Then one day at work, right after your supervisor has berated you again, you suffer chest pains, collapse and are taken to an emergency room. You did not have a heart attack or stroke, but rather a severe psychological condition that mimics a stroke. Your family doctor places you on anti-depressants and refers you to a psychiatrist. The preceding events are compensable factors supporting you claim for disabling emotional distress – if you can prove they occurred in the first place.

Claims of “harassment” do NOT win.

What does win? There are 3 categories of compensable factors.

  • Stress caused by your efforts to perform your regularly and specially assigned job duties
  • Stress caused by violations of rules, regulations, policies or procedures usually done by co-workers or supervision
  • Stress caused by errors or abuses of discretion in handling administrative or personnel matters – usually done by supervision
  • Here are a few questions to get you thinking.
  • Does performing your everyday job duties cause you stress?
  • Did you work excessive amounts of overtime?
  • Are you under great pressure to meet deadlines?
  • Must you case, sort or deliver too much mail for the time allowed?
  • Do you work with dangerous diseases?
  • Do you work in dangerous activities, such as climbing radio towers?
  • Do you work in law enforcement?
  • Do you work with high voltage?
  • Do you work with explosives?
  • Do you work in hazardous environments?
  • Do you work with dangerous chemicals, bacteria or viruses?
  • Do you work with dangerous people, criminals or prisoners?
  • Did your supervisor assign you to perform work duties outside your medical work restrictions or limitations?
  • Did your supervisor improperly levy discipline on you, and that discipline was later fully overturned?
  • Have you been groped, sexually assaulted, or forced into a sexual relationship by a supervisor or co-worker?
  • Have you been physically assaulted by a co-worker or supervisor?
  • Has a supervisor made discriminatory or derogatory statements about you or other workers?
  • Did your supervisor violate the rules of the Overtime Desired List?
  • Did your supervisor falsify, or improperly change, your time card?
  • Did your supervisor improperly contact your physician?
  • Did your supervisor improperly force you to report for work – especially when you were medically disabled for work?
  • Did supervision or administrative personnel improperly reveal your confidential personnel or medical information to people not authorized to have that information?
  • Do you have witnesses or documentation to support your claimed events of improper statements, treatment or actions by others against you?
  • Have you won a decision at hearing or trial of EEOC or MSPB litigation, or a lawsuit against supervision, management or your employing agency?
  • NOTE: Settlement of an EEOC claim is not proof of a violation, but OWCP can make its own determination of claimed compensable factors based on the underlying events of your EEOC claim/s.
  • Do you have medical reports showing a disabling psychological condition caused by your work activities?

Claiming your supervisor “harassed” you, loses.
Having a witness statement that your supervisor groped you, makes a compensable factor.

Note: OWCP decides the veracity of all claims and witnesses.

Using a settled EEOC claim as proof that your employer violated the law, loses. An EEOC Administrative Law Judge, ruling your employer violated the law, makes a compensable factor.

Note: Even if you lose at an EEOC hearing, OWCP can decide the merits of your claimed violations via its own claims review process and standards.

Filing a grievance against your supervisor does not win your claim.
Having your grievance upheld in all respects, makes a compensable factor.

Note: Even if you lose your grievance, OWCP can decide the merits of your claimed violations via its own claims review process and standards.

Now that you have proven your compensable factors, you need your doctor’s medical opinion that those compensable factors caused or contributed to your disabling psychological condition.

Your doctor’s report needs to be comprehensive, and needs to clearly state that the established compensable factors are the cause of, or have contributed to, your disabling psychological condition.

The more “objective” psychological testing, such as the MMPI, pain surveys and other such tests that support your claim, the better. These testing tools not only help your psychologist to better treat your condition, they provide you with the “objective” evidence you want supporting your claim.