Workplace Gossip Is Not Enough To Establish A Psychiatric Injury

This is a Certified Opinion and is therefore, a citeable case. It establishes specifically what is not a compensable psychiatric case.

The applicant was a bus driver for the School District. She admitted having an affair with a coworker while each was married to someone else. After the affair ended, gossip took place at the workplace. This included name calling like “tramp”.  The applicant asked the supervisor to stop the name calling, which he did. The applicant filed a psychiatric claim.

Her psychiatrist find the injury industrial and the defense found it nonindustrial. At trial, the workers’ compensation judge (WCJ) found the injury nonindustrial. The applicant filed a petition for reconsideration. The Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) overruled the WCJ.

The Court of Appeal reviewed several prior cases. It is not sufficient that an applicant’s duties merely provides a stage for their injury. The employment cannot be a mere passive element that a nonindustrial condition focuses on.  The industrial injury must take an “active” or “positive” role in the development of the psychiatric condition.

Here the source of the applicant’s problems were the rumors and gossip about the applicant. These stemmed from acts about the applicant’s personal life that all occurred off the job and no connection with her employment.

The court stated that gossip about an employee’s personal life is not part of the employment relationship. The court agreed with the WCJ that the employee’s personal life is not part of the employee-employer relationship and therefore is not compensable.

Case: Atascadero Unified School District V. WCAB (Geredes)

Harvey Brown
3501 Jamboree Rd. Suite 602
Newport Beach, CA 92660

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