Workers’ Comp Covers Emotional Trauma from Sexual Assault in Ohio
Sexual assault in the workplace is a major issue. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) receives thousands of sexual harassment complaints each year, and these complaints almost certainly represent just a small fraction of the total number of cases of sexual assault on the job. There is no justification for nonconsensual sexual conduct under any circumstances, and there is no excuse for any employer to fail to adequately protect its employees.
Regardless of whether sexual assault results in physical injuries or emotional trauma (or, as is so often the case, both physical and psychological harm), it is covered under workers’ compensation in Ohio. If you are a victim of sexual assault in the workplace, you deserve to receive the financial support you need for your recovery, and Ohio’s workers’ compensation law makes clear the harm caused by sexual assault should be treated the same as harm resulting from any other incident on the job.
The Importance of Ohio’s Definition of an “Injury” in Workplace Sexual Assault Cases
As a general rule, Ohio’s workers’ compensation law requires evidence of a physical injury in order for an employee to be eligible for benefits. However, there is one major exception—and it applies specifically in cases of sexual assault.
Ohio’s workers’ compensation law defines an “injury” as follows:
“’ Injury’ includes any injury, whether caused by external accidental means or accidental in character and result, received in the course of, and arising out of, the injured employee’s employment.”
The law then goes on to list various types of medical conditions that do not qualify as injuries for workers’ compensation purposes. These include pre-existing injuries, injuries from natural deterioration and “psychiatric conditions.” Crucially, however, psychiatric conditions are covered when:
“[T]he claimant’s psychiatric conditions have arisen from an injury or occupational disease sustained by that claimant or where the claimant’s psychiatric conditions have arisen from sexual conduct in which the claimant was forced by threat of physical harm to engage or participate”
In other words, there are two scenarios in which emotional trauma and other psychiatric conditions are covered under Ohio’s workers’ compensation law. The first is when an employee’s condition is related to a physical injury or occupational disease. The second is when an employee’s condition is related to a sexual assault on the job. In cases of sexual assault, evidence of a physical injury is not required.
Psychiatric Conditions Caused By Sexual Assault and Covered Under Workers’ Comp in Ohio
Sexual assault victims can struggle with a wide range of psychiatric conditions as a result of their attacks. For example, the emotional trauma caused by a sexual assault will often lead to conditions such as:
- Anxiety – Anxiety is extremely common among victims of sexual assault. Having been victimized can cause severe anxiety, and without treatment, this anxiety can become overpowering. If you are experiencing anxiety as a victim of sexual assault, it is important to make sure you get the treatment and rest you need.
- Depression – Depression is common among victims of sexual assault as well. While depression has different effects for different people, its symptoms can consume your daily life. You may feel as though you are unable to get out of bed, you may not want to interact with anyone, and the thought of going back to work may make you turn inward even more.
- Panic Disorders – Panic disorders frequently result from traumatic events, including sexual assaults. One of the most common effects of suffering from a panic disorder is experiencing panic attacks, which are defined as “sudden, intense feelings of fear that cause physical symptoms like a racing heart, fast breathing and sweating.”
- Post–Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – PTSD is another common effect of severe emotional trauma. It has several symptoms, including restlessness, nervousness, a sense of impending doom, trouble concentrating and trouble sleeping. Suffering from PTSD can make your life much more difficult, and it can make going to work both scary and potentially dangerous.
- Sleep Disorders – Sleep disorders will often result from anxiety, PTSD and the other effects of severe emotional trauma. These disorders can disrupt all aspects of your life, and while treatable, it can take time before you are able to start sleeping comfortably again and resume a normal and healthy schedule.
All of these conditions are covered under workers’ compensation in Ohio. If you are eligible for workers’ compensation, you can obtain coverage not only for the cost of treatment for your psychiatric conditions but also for the time you miss from work during your recovery. These “wage replacement” benefits will typically cover two-thirds of your lost earnings, but they are also generally tax-free.
Filing a Workers’ Comp Claim as a Sexual Assault Victim in Ohio
If you are a victim of sexual assault in the workplace, you deserve to be fairly compensated. For most employees, obtaining fair compensation involves filing a claim with the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC)—though you may need to file a claim with your employer if it is self-ensured. For an overview of the workers’ compensation claim process (and what you can expect along the way), you can read our guide: The Anatomy of an Ohio Workers’ Compensation Claim.
Filling a successful workers’ compensation claim is never easy. Unfortunately, it can be especially challenging when seeking benefits for non-physical harm. But, with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer on your side, you can collect the benefits you deserve, and you can hire a lawyer to represent you at no out-of-pocket cost.
Discuss Your Legal Rights with a Workers’ Comp Lawyer at Malek & Malek Law Firm
For more information about your legal rights as a victim of sexual assault in the workplace in Ohio, you can schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with a workers’ comp lawyer at Malek & Malek Law Firm. With offices in Columbus, we represent employees throughout Ohio. To speak with a lawyer in confidence as soon as possible, call 888-444-7440 or send us your contact information online today.