Inspector’s Work Stress Passes Test For Compensability

Case name: Turner v Illinois, State of/Dept of Transportation, 12 ILWCLB 4 (Ill.Ind.Comm. 2004).

Ruling: The Commission awarded benefits to an asbestos abatement inspector for a bleeding ulcer caused by work stress. Evidence indicated that the supervisor denied the claimant overtime pay to which he was entitled, restricted his schedule, replaced the claimant with less qualified employees, and made several “off handed” racial remarks and jokes.

What it means: Work stress may be compensable where the employee is able to show that the job stress is greater than usual job stress, the problems at work exist in reality, and the stress is a major factor in the development of the employee’s physical ailments.

Summary: The claimant, a licensed asbestos abatement inspector, alleged that he sustained a bleeding ulcer due to work stress. Such job stress included being denied overtime pay to which he was entitled by the union contract and having to file a grievance. After winning his grievance, he was forced by his supervisor to work a restricted schedule that prevented him from performing his work properly. Also, the supervisor assigned four less qualified and unlicensed employees to replace the claimant. In addition the supervisor told the claimant he should take a blood test to be sure his academically accomplished son was his own. The supervisor also made “of handed” racial remarks and jokes. Based on these incidents, the arbitrator found that the job stress the claimant suffered was greater than the usual job stress. The problems existed in reality and were a major factor in the development of the claimant’s ulcer. Accordingly, the claimant met his burden of proving that an accident occurred which arose out of and in the course of his employment while working for the defendant. In affirming, the Commission relied on Baggett v. Industrial Commission.