Once her five-year-old daughter began school, Elizabeth Harris re-entered the workforce. Elizabeth got a job at an insurance company’s call centre in Toronto. Poor ergonomics and job stress plagued her from the beginning, as in prior work experience, and eventually became too much for her. Share Lawyers successfully advocated for her when her disability benefits were cut off.
As at any desk job, the ease-of-use of her chair, desk, phone, keyboard, and computer monitor were important to Elizabeth’s comfort and health. These were not ergonomically correct, even after she repeatedly expressed concern to her supervisor. Over two years on the job, chronic pain had developed in her neck and right wrist.
Elizabeth also found her job emotionally stressful. Some callers were hard to please and a few each day would yell. All activity on her phone and computer was recorded and timed. She felt pressure from her employer to shorten each call, and she was expected to promote the company. Elizabeth felt particularly stressed as the economy worsened and some of her friends were laid off. When her best friend, who sat next to her, was laid off, it seemed a tipping point for her.
Emotionally stressed and physically aching, Elizabeth went to her doctor for help. In the doctor’s offi ce, she broke down and cried. The doctor said that time off work was needed. She referred Elizabeth to see a psychologist, prescribed painkillers for her neck and wrist pain, and prescribed an antidepressant for the stress. Referring her to a surgeon for carpal tunnel syndrome, the doctor said that typing had become a health hazard. Rather than relieved, Elizabeth felt overwhelmed.
She applied for short-term disability benefits with her employer. Her claim was approved.
Three months later, stressed and depressed about the state of her health and employability, Elizabeth’s pain symptoms and depression seemed to be getting worse while on leave – not better. She applied for longterm disability benefi ts. Her claim was denied and her employer threatened to terminate her employment with no severance if she did not return to work immediately.
Seeking help, Elizabeth turned to her friend Jim Macintosh, the nurse featured in the summer, 2007 issue of Share Perspectives who successfully sued for auto accident benefi ts and disability benefi ts after an automobile accident that occurred while he assisted his elderly parents. Jim assured her that David Share Associates could help. Unable to cope, Elizabeth followed Jim’s advice. Share Lawyers accepted her case.
The main issue in her claim for long-term disability benefi ts was that it was merely considered one of workplace stress. The insurance company was unimpressed by the medical evidence, which did not differ from her medical information over several prior years. It argued that Elizabeth had complained of a sore wrist and neck pain in the past but was always able to continue working. Also, it suggested that the weak economy had caused her to pursue the claim as surety.
Share Lawyers secured further medical information by having Elizabeth attend assessments with specialists who could explain the deterioration of her condition. The insurance company would find this case not so easily won. Indeed, Elizabeth was pleasantly surprised at the final outcome, despite the posturing that had taken place before and during mediation.
Share Laywers successfully sued the insurer for long-term disability benefi ts and secured severance pay from her employer. She was relieved to have the case settled, and with the settlement funds, to focus on recuperating and start thinking about the future again.
*Names have been fictionalized to protect the privacy of our clients.