Workers compensation bill would cover mental injuries

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A new bill in Nebraska is aiming to recognize that not all injuries suffered on the job are physical.

Under current Nebraska law, workers compensation does not cover mental injuries suffered by employees who are on the job when something traumatic happens.

Employees of a business where a shooting takes place, for instance, are covered only for physical wounds.

The emotional scars left behind from witnessing something terrifying or horrific are not covered by workers compensation in the state. However, a new bill introduced by Senator Carol Blood (Bellevue) is aiming to change that.

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Bellevue was the location of the Sonic restaurant where there was a shooting that killed 2 people and physically injured 2 others on November 21, 2020. That said, the other employees who worked at the restaurant and witnessed the tragedies firsthand suffered emotionally but did not have coverage for those injuries. In the state, they are not eligible for it.

Bill LB5 will amend a section of the Nebraska Workers Compensation Act to include mental health.

The amendment to the law would require the coverage for people who have received a diagnosis from a mental health professional for a post-traumatic stress disorder. This coverage would be available regardless of whether physical injuries are also present and would be specific to cases of workplace violence.

Senator Blood recently addressed the Legislature’s Business and Labor Committee, giving testimony for the purpose of adding Nebraska to the small list of US states – currently including only nine – that will cover mental injuries as a part of its workers compensation benefits. In the draft of Senator Blood’s bill, workplace violence that would make an employee eligible for this coverage would be defined as a shooting, a hostage situation, an act of terrorism, or a similar violent act occurring at the person’s place of work.

According to the senator, the bill will provide employees with improved protection and would cover employees from the aftermath of a violent workplace incident. Six other people testified in support of the bill. Among them was Bellevue Police Chief Ken Clary, who said that the employees who worked through the Sonic shooting suffered “life-altering” mental injuries.

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