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Court of Appeal: Emotional Response to Personnel Action IS the Effect

April 24th, 2013

As my beloved readers may recall, this blog reported to you the matter of County of Sacramento v. WCAB (Michael Brooks), in which the County of Sacramento valiantly but, at least initially, without much success, the determination by the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board that a probation officer’s grievance and personal feelings in response to his perception that the grievance was not properly responded to by his supervisors, did not constitute a “personnel action” under Labor Code section 3208.3(h), and the resulting injury to the psyche was therefore compensable.

In that post, your humble blogger made the argument that an applicant’s personal feelings in response to a good faith personnel action are the same as the action itself, and so should bar any recover for an injury to the psyche.

The Court of Appeal reviewed the decision of the WCAB, and reversed.  The reasoning behind this oh-so-gratifying reversal?  “The Board’s causation analysis treated Brooks’s ‘feelings that he was unsupported by his supervisors’ as a cause of psychiatric injury, as did [the Agreed Medical Evaluator].  In reality, however, his feelings were the injury, or symptoms of the injury, not the cause of the injury.”

But the fun doesn’t stop there.  As my readers may recall, there was a similar case, The Tribune v. WCABIn that case, the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board found that there was no good-faith personnel action defense to bar the psyche claim of Arthur Ecker, because the injury was caused by his “stress” of having to take on new job duties, mostly related to the increased use of computer technology.  This increase in duties was, after all, a good-faith personnel action on the part of the Tribune, which sought to reduce its staff because a decrease in circulation necessitated a 2/3rd reduction in staff.

In that case, again, applicant effectively made the same argument – his feelings in response to the personnel action were the basis of his injury.  EAMS reflects a date of injury of November 16, 2008 and that the matter resolved with a finding and award.  Should someone tell the Tribune to petition to re-open the case and stop all benefits (if any remain to be provided)?  Tick-tock…

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