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When mental stress is compensable in Wisconsin

It is no secret that stress is one of America's greatest health concerns and that it is only getting worse. A growing body of evidence proves that stress does not just affect a person's mood but rather, can have a negative impact on one's overall physical and mental wellbeing. When left unchecked, stress can cause headaches, stomach upset, fatigue, chest pain and sleep disorders. It can also lead to reduced motivation, restlessness, anxiety, irritability and depression. Combined, both the physical and emotional symptoms may result in high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes or heart disease. For these reasons, states are beginning to view stress as a compensable workplace injury. Is Wisconsin one of them?

According to Wisconsin Law Review, courts are often hesitant to award workers' compensation for mental stress for five main reasons. First, mental injuries are subjective, as individuals react differently to similar mental stimuli. Because of this, judges are hesitant to evaluate mental harms. Second, because mental injuries are more difficult to evaluate, they are easier for persons to falsify. Third, diagnosis relies on self-reporting, a fact that may make it difficult for courts to gather the information necessary to make a reliable diagnosis. Fourth, courts find it difficult to establish a casual link between stress and the workplace, given many people experience stress in their personal lives as well. Finally, courts worry that the high cost of litigating mental claims will mean less funding for claims for physical harms.

That said, according to the journal, Wisconsin is one of 23 states that will compensate mental injuries if an injury is unusual and/or sudden. The State of Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development puts it simply. To receive compensation, an employee must prove that the mental harm was the result of an incident of greater proportions than the everyday mental stressors and tensions which all employees typically undergo. 

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