Mental health coverage added to Minnesota Workers’ Compensation laws

Minnesota's workers' compensation helps to provide financial coverage for either medical costs or lost wages to employees that have incurred personal injuries directly from a workplace circumstance or event.

In many situations, it is easy to identify a cause-and-effect relationship between an accident or other event and a resulting injury. One example would be a head injury or broken bone that results from a fall from a ladder. However, some injuries are not as easily connected to a single event or set of circumstances and the laws are still evolving as to how to address them. This is especially true of any mental health injury or illness that an employee may claim.

Potential claim delineations

Around the country, states are divided as to how mental health workers' compensation claims should be addressed. In general, there can be four types of workers' compensation claims:

  • Physical-physical: The example above is a type of physical-physical claim where a physical incident resulted in a physical injury.
  • Physical-mental: An example of this type of claim would be a worker who becomes depressed as a result of being disabled after a fall on a job site. The physical incident initiated the situation and the mental health condition resulted from that.
  • Mental-physical: An employee who develops an ulcer due to stressful workplace conditions is an example of a potential claim where the originating circumstance is mental in nature but leads to a physical injury.
  • Mental-mental: Post-traumatic stress disorder that results from a serious trauma in the line of work would be an example of this sort of claim.

Many states wrestle with whether or not to provide coverage for mental health claims under their workers' compensation programs.

Tennessee, for example, covers physical-mental claims but not mental-mental. Connecticut's state representatives have recently passed a bill to set up a fund for mental-mental workers' compensation coverage in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Earlier this summer, the Ohio State Supreme Court upheld a ruling to deny claims for mental health benefits unless they are directly related to a physical injury.

Changes to Minnesota laws

Effective October 1, 2013, Minnesota will allow workers' compensation coverage for mental-mental claims for incidents that happen on or after that date. Under the new statute, workers must have a professional diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder by a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist and have clearly developed their condition as a result of a work-related incident.

A traumatic event under Minnesota law is defined as any exposure to a violent or accidental death, sexual violence or serious injury. A bank employee held up at gun point or a first responder in a life-threatening situation could potentially be eligible for workers' compensation benefits under the updated law.

What is not covered?

Depression or other mental health conditions that are connected to any good-faith actions on the part of an employer are not included in the coverage under the new law. That means an employee who is laid off, terminated, disciplined, transferred or demoted cannot receive workers' compensation for mental health treatments related to these actions.

Employees who are suffering with mental stress related to an employment situation or incident should discuss their case with an attorney. As the new law takes effect, many changes are on the horizon that could make a claim possible for you.