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If you are one of the nearly 1 million professionals, technical staff, managers or supervisors in the federal work force, the odds are 98 out of 100, that if you are injured, it will not be from straining, lifting, moving, pushing or pulling an object, falling down or bumping into an object. No, the likelihood is much greater, that you will sustain an injury much more subtle, difficult to detect, and or determine the cause of: an Occupational Disease or Illness.

In this category of injury, while the only ostensible difference between this type of injury and trauma is that it occurs over multiple work shifts rather than one, there are many fine points to be aware of and tripped up by. The major types of occupational illness in the federal office are three fold: Emotional conditions (Anxiety, Depression, etc.), Repetitive Strain (Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Tendinitis, chronic strains, etc.), and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary disease or multiple chemical sensitivity, which can be caused be many different airborne contaminants.

Each of these families of conditions has spawned an extensive legal and medical literature. In this brief series, I will focus on injuries and legal issues specific to professional, technical and managerial employees. In the present context, we will begin with an analysis of emotional conditions, which not many federal employee attorneys currently handle, but which are a specialty of Pines Federal .

Many, many misconceptions exist about what types of work situations the FECA and its’ regulations cover concerning emotional conditions, and what they do not. For example, if you are dissatisfied or made anxious over not receiving a promotion or a particular work schedule, those emotional reactions are considered ‘self-generated’ or outside of the normal course of work, and therefore will likely be denied by OWCP. However, there are nonetheless a whole host of issues and workplace situations that are covered under the Act that generate Anxiety, Depression and other mental health conditions.

Use by other staff of derogatory terms and racial or ethnic slurs, verbal abuse, illegal or harassing actions toward you by more senior managers, heavy workload and/or overtime, mandatory shift changes, sexual or co-worker harassment, inappropriate denial of reimbursements or leave, unproven accusations of misconduct, and fear of being unable to perform one’s job are covered circumstances which may give rise to emotional illnesses legitimately under the FECA and the list does not end there.

Under the D.H. decision issued in 2009, the Employee Compensation Appeals Board clarified for the first time, that managers having an unpleasant time dealing with their subordinates, do in fact have a claimable and compensable issue, if they can prove the substance of their allegations. This is the reason why an attorney is behind the acceptance by OWCP of almost all federal employee stress claims: You need factual and medical evidence, collected prepared and organized as required by the FECA, which is a signal part of our expertise at Pines Federal .

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Eric L. Pines is a nationally recognized federal employment lawyer, mediator, and attorney business coach. He represents federal employees and acts as in-house counsel for over fifty thousand federal employees through his work as a federal employee labor union representative.

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