Sexual assault is a violent crime that, unfortunately, can happen to people while they are at work. A sexual assault, of course, causes physical injury, but unless the attacker also breaks bones or causes a brain or spinal cord injury, the physical injuries are rarely disabling.
However, the long-term emotional effects of being sexually assaulted can be psychologically disabling and prevent the victim from going to work. The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) allows for coverage of psychiatric injuries that result from sexual assault—even when serious physical injuries have not occurred. What does this mean for victims who were assaulted at work?
Sexual Assault Circumstances That Might Be Covered by Workers’ Comp
The first thing to be aware of is that assaults perpetrated by an employer on an employee are not covered under workers’ comp law in Ohio. In other words, if you are sexually assaulted by a supervisor, you could have a criminal case, an employment law case, and potentially a personal injury case, but you would not have a claim for workers’ compensation. This is because the Ohio Supreme Court ruled over 40 years ago that workers’ comp is not liable for intentional harm to an employee by an employer.
However, if you are sexually assaulted by an intruder, client, customer, patient, or any other non-employee you come across in the scope ad course of your duties, your injuries should be covered by workers’ comp. While purely emotional injuries are not covered by workers’ comp in most situations, there is an exception for sexual assault. The revised code of Ohio allows that “psychiatric conditions [that] have arisen from sexual conduct in which the claimant was forced by threat of physical harm to engage or participate” are included in its definition of “injury.”
Psychiatric Injuries That Can Be Caused by Sexual Assault
While a sexual assault victim might recover from their physical injuries in a few days or weeks, the emotional impact of the attack could take a life-long toll on their well-being. Victims of sexual violence can experience any these psychological conditions:
- Depression. Persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness that interrupt regular thought patterns and affect the ability to accomplish daily tasks are signs of depression. Survivors of sexual assault often struggle with depression for years after an attack, making it very difficult to engage with other people and go to work.
- PTSD. Post-traumatic stress disorder can be caused by any traumatic event, including an assault. People with PTSD sometimes experience flashbacks to the event, find it extremely difficult to return to the site of the event, and feel fearful and anxious all the time. A sexual assault survivor with PTSD might find it impossible to return to where the attack happened every day for work.
- Sleep disorders. Having difficulty falling or staying asleep, sleeping at unusual times of the day, or sleeping longer than usual are symptoms of a sleep disorder that can result from a violent attack. Sleep disorders can make holding down a job very difficult.
- Panic attacks. A sudden feeling of intense fear and anxiety can arise at any time for someone recovering from a traumatic event. Symptoms of a panic attack can mimic signs of a heart attack, creating even more fear in the victim.
- Anxiety disorder. Generalized anxiety disorder can make it very difficult for the person to leave their house, interact with other people, and perform work tasks.
Any of these conditions can make it impossible for a sexual assault survivor to go to work, and many survivors experience more than one of them after a violent attack.
The Role of Workers’ Compensation
After a worker is sexually assaulted at work, they will require treatment for their physical injuries and time off work to recover from the emotional trauma. A workers’ comp claim should cover their medical expenses, therapy bills, prescription medications, and lost wages for time off work. A psychiatrist will be a key member of the team that determines when the victim is ready to return to work.
Get Help From Monast Law Office
With over 30 years of experience as a workers' comp attorney in Ohio, I have helped people suffering from all kinds of injuries get the compensation they deserved. Contact Monast Law Office to discover how we can help you. Learn more by requesting a free copy of our book, The Worker's Guide to Injury Compensation in Ohio, then fill out our online contact form or call our Upper Arlington office at 614-334-4649 to get started.