Several studies have attested the fact that the workplace is a major source of stress for American adults. The World Health Organization finds that workers who are stressed are more likely to be less productive, demotivated, unhealthy, less safe, and at risk for depression and anxiety disorders. Some of the main causes of workplace stress are lack of job security, people issues, workload, and inability to juggle work and personal life. Unfortunately, wellness programs in companies do not generally reduce workplace stress.
How can the law help address workplace stress?
Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA). The general duty clause of the OSHA requires every employer to “furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.” This clause aims to address workplace violence, but wellness professionals can also use this clause when looking more closely to the employees’ work environment and taking action to minimize stress at work.
Workers’ Compensation Laws. Physical injury is usually the ground for compensation cases. However, there are also cases in which the employee died or was injured due to a stressful work environment. In California, you may qualify for workers’ compensation benefits for psychiatric injuries. Such claims must be supported by a detailed testimony from a doctor. The injured employee must prove that actual events in the workplace are the predominantly caused the stress and injury.
Stress Leave. A stress leave is a viable option for an employee if workplace stress already interferes with productivity ad performance at work. Under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), an employee can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. The employer can be sued for refusing to take an employee back after the leave or prohibit an employee from taking a stress leave.
Here are a few tips on managing workplace stress:
- Take regular breaks during your shift. Stretch, walk around, or have a short chat with a coworker.
- Join stress-management webinars and wellness programs such as meditation, yoga, and fitness clubs.
- Make sure to take time off from work once in a while – finish a personal project, take a vacation, or stay at home and do nothing related to work.
- Seek the help of your immediate manager or the HR department. If the cause of stress is heavy workload, seek clarification of your roles and responsibilities, or ask if you can have support or training. You can also request for a more flexible work arrangement such as telecommuting or remote work.
- If an employer refuses to take action to remove job-related stressors after you have spoken to them, you can seek the help of an employment lawyer in filing a complaint.
- If you are unable to resolve matters with your employer, but do not wish to file a lawsuit, keep in mind that you have the option to leave. Your mental health must be your top priority.
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