Believe it or not, a Court recently decided that a liquor store clerk being robbed at gunpoint was foreseeable and therefore not an abnormal working condition.  The claim for Workers’ Compensation benefits was denied.

The Facts:

  • The employee had worked as a liquor store clerk for about one year.
  • Two masked robbers came into the store.
  • One of the robbers tells the employee to open the cash register while the other pointed a gun at him.
  • The employee complied and after the robbers exit the store, he pressed the panic button and called 911.
  • The employee began to immediately experience panic attack-like symptoms and shaking.  Later that night, he described the felling of being smothered, had trouble sleeping and was nauseous.
  • The employee began treating with a psychologist and psychiatrist who prescribed medications.  The Doctors diagnosed “anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder”. 
  • The employer denied the employee’s request for Workers’ Compensation benefits asserting the robbery was not an abnormal working condition.
  • The employer presented proofs that the employee has received extensive training regarding proper procedures in the case of a robbery. 

The Court’s Decision:

  • The robbery did not constitute an abnormal working condition.
  • Although there is no bright line test or a generalized standard, the court considered whether the working conditions were foreseeable or could have been anticipated.
  • The court noted that the fact that the employee was “trained” regarding armed robbery was significant.

The Lesson:

  • Workers’ Compensation claims based on a psychological stimulus causing a psychic injury requires the employee to prove the psychological stimulus was an abnormal working condition.  The finding of an abnormal working condition is based on the specific facts and circumstances surrounding the claim. 

If you have questions regarding your rights under Workers’ Compensation, please contact the experienced attorneys at Stark & Stark.