Psychiatric Injuries and the First Six Months of Employment in Safety and Law Enforcement
With respect to emotional injuries in the workplace, California Workers’ Compensation Law has many rules which are used to determine whether psychiatric injury claims are to be considered industrial or in other terms, “compensable”. One rule in particular impacts Safety and Law Enforcement Personnel. The particular rule is the called the “Six Month” rule.
As a result of the law, Psychiatric Claims of Injury during the first six months of employment can be difficult to prove for Safety and Law Enforcement Personnel. The fact that someone has actually suffered a Psychiatric Injury from stressful events at work is not the issue. Injury Law in California for Psychiatric Injuries limits an Injured Worker’s ability to claim a psychiatric injury within the first six months of employment. Therefore, one may legitimately be psychiatrically injured by events at work. Because of the law, however, the injury will not be considered compensable pursuant to Workers’ Compensation Law, and no compensation will be provided.
Labor Code Section 3208.3(d) provides that “no compensation shall be paid pursuant to this division for a psychiatric injury related to a claim against an employer unless the employee has been employed by that employer for at least six months. The six months of employment need not be continuous. This subdivision shall not apply if the psychiatric injury is caused by a sudden and extraordinary employment condition.”
The big problem with Safety and Law Enforcement positions is that inherently these jobs involve sudden and extraordinary conditions as a common daily occurrence. Shoot-outs, violent altercations, rescues from burning buildings or cars, and witnessing graphic accidents or crime scenes are all part and parcel of these occupations. Therefore, what would be a valid psychiatric injury for a civilian is not a valid psychiatric injury for a Safety or Law Enforcement Personnel.
Stressful events as described as above can emotionally impact individuals within the first six months of employment. As a result of these experiences, one might develop Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD.) PTSD has a variety of symptoms. Signs of PSTD can include flashbacks of the traumatic event which may be triggered by environmental stimuli. This can lead to heightened susceptibility to anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders. It can include cognitive decline, including problems with long-memory and short-term memory, nightmares and sleep disturbances.