Highlights of Noteworthy Decisions
- In the course of employment (fighting)
- Stress, mental
The worker was a cook at a correctional institution. She prepared meals for the inmates, which were taken to the inmates on carts. Staff came to the cafeteria for meals. The worker appealed a decision of the Appeals Resolution Officer denying entitlement for traumatic mental stress related to an incident regarding the staff meals. The worker claimed that her supervisor had directed that the staff lunch should not be served until 11:30 am, even if the cafeteria doors had already been opened. The supervisor came in at 11:25 and asked about the serving of lunch. He directed a co-worker to start serving. The co-worker was upset about having to do extra work and made comments about the worker. The matter escalated between the worker and the co-worker. After extensive review of the evidence, the Panel found that there was no clear policy to wait until 11:30 to serve lunch. It was the worker who escalated the confrontation with the co-worker. She flew into an uncontrolled rage in response to the co-worker's comments and began poking the co-worker. The Panel found that the events that upset the worker were not unexpected, in that it is not unexpected for two co-workers to have a disagreement about work tasks and about whether they were doing their fair share of work. It is not unexpected that one of the co-workers to express loudly that unfairness. In this case, the Panel found that the co-worker raised his voice in an angry way but that he did not shout or express intense anger until the worker started shouting and poking the co-worker with her finger. The event was also not objectively traumatic within the terms of Board policy. The co-worker did not move his arms or act in a manner that might be perceived as threatening. It was the worker's misperception of events and her distorted recollection and beliefs about the facts that made it traumatic for her. However, the event was not objectively traumatic within the terms of Board policy and was not compensable within s. 13 of the WSIA. Although not necessary to dispose of the appeal, the Panel noted that it was of the view that a verbal altercation is a fight within the meaning of Board policy. The policy is not restricted to a physical fight. In this case, the fight was about work-related matters. It was the worker who escalated the level of conflict, although she had other less confrontational or angry options. The appeal was dismissed.