A former manager at a New York supermarket is due workers’ compensation benefits for his preexisting post-traumatic stress disorder condition, which was exacerbated during his employment because of threatening conduct by a co-worker’s husband, a New York appellate court ruled.
The New York Supreme Court’s Appellate Division, Third Department, upheld the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board’s findings on July 3.
Claimant Arthur Mosely was working as an assistant store manager for Hannaford Brothers Co. supermarket in upstate New York in November 2007. Court documents show that claimant made a phone call to a co-worker at her home to discuss a work-related matter.
Following that phone call, the co-worker’s husband became convinced that claimant and the co-worker were engaged in a romantic relationship, prompting the co-worker’s husband to undertake a course of threatening and harassing conduct against claimant, culminating in an unsuccessful murder-for-hire plot against him.
Further, the co-worker’s husband contacted claimant’s supervisor regarding the alleged affair, which triggered an internal investigation by the employer and ultimately resulted in claimant requesting a transfer to another store.
As a result, claimant’s preexisting post-traumatic stress disorder was exacerbated to the point that he was unable to continue to work, according to court documents.
Claimant then filed a claim for workers’ comp benefits. The employer argued that the claimed injury was not causally related to claimant’s employment. However, a workers’ comp law judge determined that claimant’s injury was indeed work-related and, on administrative appeal, a three-member panel of the Workers’ Compensation Board issued a split decision upholding the judge’s decision. That decision was affirmed upon a full review by the Workers’ Compensation Board and an appeal was then filed by Hannaford Brothers Co.
In backing the findings of the Workers’ Compensation Board, the New York appellate court noted that whether the injury-producing event “arose out of and in the course of claimant’s employment” depends upon whether it “originated in work-related differences or purely from personal animosity” (Matter of Cuthbert v. Panorama Windows Ltd., 78 AD3d 1450, 1451 ; see Matter of Gutierrez v. Courtyard by Marriott, 46 AD3d 1241, 1242 ).
The appellate court also stated that if there is “any nexus, however slender, between the motivation for the assault and employment,” an award of workers’ comp benefits is appropriate (Matter of Rosen v. First Manhattan Bank, 202 AD2d 864, 865 , affd 84 NY2d 856 ; see Matter of Cuthbert v. Panorama Windows Ltd., 78 AD3d at 1451; Matter of Gutierrez v. Courtyard by Marriott, 46 AD3d at 1242).
The appellate court stated that in this case, the work-related phone call from claimant to his co-worker’s home was the basis for the subsequent harassment of claimant at his place of employment, the employer’s internal investigation and claimant’s request for a transfer — all of which exacerbated claimant’s preexisting stress disorder.
The appellate court ruled that as the record reveals no connection between claimant and the co-worker’s husband outside of claimant’s work-related duties, the Workers’ Compensation Board “properly found the required nexus” between the threatening conduct that exacerbated claimant’s preexisting condition and claimant’s employment (see Matter of Cuthbert v. Panorama Windows Ltd., 78 AD3d at 1451; Matter of Gutierrez v. Courtyard by Marriott, 46 AD3d at 1242).
The case is Arthur Mosley, Respondent v. Hannaford Brothers Company, Appellant. Workers’ Compensation Board, Respondent. 517175 (App. Div., 3rd, Decided July 3, 2014)