What to do about workplace stress and abusive treatment?

by Travis
(Smithfield, RI, USA)

I'm suffering mental stress and anguish, and depression. This is caused by 4 years of being overworked, basically having to do two full time jobs, technical phone support and complex electronic repairs on FDA medical equipment.

In addition to the workload, I have had to put up with abuse, such as belittling my religion at Christmas. For example, my manager left a picture of a dog's rear-end with the face of Jesus superimposed on it. And another co-worker made remarks at Easter time asking if the Easter bunny is coming down from the cross.

I'm constantly told I'm not fast enough or good enough, to the point where my manager would bring other employees over to my work area to try to embarrass me into working faster. I had one employee scream curses and shake his finger at me and call me a lying racist mother f-er for comments during a discussion of daily news topics.

My last employment review claims I don't show any urgency at the job, when just a week earlier I was asked to fill in for a field service person who covers New England. I agreed to help out (as always) with the site visits in New England, which I have been doing along with my regular job description.

I even was asked to fly cross country for an urgent repair at a moment's notice, which I reluctantly agreed to do. It turned out to be just too costly to send me on the call, so I did not end up going. My point being, I was there to help when there was a real urgent call.

The company over the past year has made changes to ease the burden that I and other employees were feeling, but the damage has already been done. I cannot sleep, and have lost weight. Work has negatively effected my home life and relationships with my wife and children.

I started using alcohol every night, and things got so bad my doctor had me go out on medical leave for six weeks, two weeks of which I spent at a program at Butler Hospital.

Before the added help at work, one secretary was forced to take medical leave for good because of the amount of stress we were all dealing with. I don't think I can last much longer in this kind of work environment, with this new manager I can only see things deteriorating further.

I thought the hiring of more help would alleviate the stress, but things have gotten worse. I cannot afford to lose my income, but I dread having to go there every day, in this economy I have been unable to find new employment. The way things have been going and after this last review I think they want to fire me.

Is there anything that can be done about these horrible work conditions? Can I do something about the abuse and religious comments that were made to me? Thank you for any information you can provide to help.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "What to do about workplace stress and abusive treatment?":

Travis (Smithfield, RI, USA):

Unfortunately, there aren't any apparent legal remedies you can avail yourself of. Workers' compensation insurance normally doesn't cover job related stress issues, unless the stress causes the worker to require medical care or hospitalization.

You mention you were hospitalized as a result of the stress. You also mention you may have been self-medicating with alcohol as a predicate for your hospitalization.

While you don't have the basis of a discrimination claim, you may be eligible for workers' compensation benefits to reimburse you for your medical bills, and to pay you about 2/3rds of your wages while recovering away from the job.

To accomplish this will require the medical opinion of a qualified psychiatrist or psychologist. Contact your workers' comp representative. Tell the rep you are ill and need to see a company-approved psychiatrist or psychologist. You have that right.

The doctor will have no reason to taunt you as your fellow employes have. Hopefully, the doctor will have some compassion and write a medical narrative stating your work related stress has caused you to become physically ill. And as a result, you will need time to recover through medical and therapeutic treatment.

If you aren't satisfied with the first doctor, ask to see another doctor. You have that right as well. In the interim, you will want to seek alternate employment.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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TYPE OF ACCIDENT
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PERSONAL INJURY
WORKERS COMPENSATION
MEDICAL ERROR
YES! I WANT FAIR COMPENSATION