RALEIGH, N.C. (CN) – A former middle school teacher cannot claim workers’ compensation for an anxiety disorder that her psychologist claimed stemmed from a job that “was driving her crazy,” the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled.
The justices voted 2-1 to deny her benefits on the grounds that generalized anxiety disorder is not considered an occupational disease.
Barbara Katrina Hassell quit teaching after she received several negative performance reviews and was asked to sign a warning by the school’s principal. Her psychologist, Dr. Dennis Chesnut, said her “job was driving her crazy,” but also noted that her malady was the most prevalent psychiatric disorder in the United States.
The Industrial Commission had placed little weight on the psychologist’s opinion and blamed Hassell for creating her own “hostile and abusive” work environment. The Supreme Court ruled that the commission had based its decision on substantial evidence and did not ignore Dr. Chesnut’s testimony, as Hassell claimed.
Dissenting Justice Timmons-Goodson said the majority improperly based its denial of Hassell’s claim on “fault or contributory negligence,” when the court previously held that workers’ compensation was meant to eliminate the worker’s fault as a basis for denying benefits.
The majority concluded that Hassell failed to link her anxiety disorder with unique characteristics of her job and was not eligible for coverage.