The Supreme Court has quantified the compensation for damage caused by work stress and its great responsibility.
The work activity is often a source of considerable stress for the employee, who can sometimes feel pervaded by a state of anxiety, frustration, irritability, the bad feeling of not being up to expectations. The consequences of “work stress” can be very damaging.
How does the law protect the stressed worker?
Is it possible to take legal action, asking for and obtaining compensation for service reasons from the employer?
When can work-related stress be considered an occupational disease?
When can work rhythms cause chronic illness?
Let’s answer these questions.
Sometimes the stress can be so intense as to cause a real chronic disease, with symptoms that do not resolve and do not improve over time and with which the worker is forced to live. Stress, from which chronic illness arises, can derive from a disproportionate burden of responsibility, from an inadequate planning of the various company activities, from a working environment characterized by the presence of reproaches and psychological pressures, where conflict reigns supreme not only among the colleagues but also between them and the boss.
What are the obligations of the employer?
According to the law [Art. 2087 of the Civil Code], the entrepreneur is required to take all the necessary measures to protect the physical integrity and moral personality of the workers, according to the particularity of the work, experience and technique. But what do these measures consist of? The Cassation [Cassation, sent. n. 5491 of 2 May 2000.] specified that the employer’s obligation is not limited exclusively to compliance with the legislation on prevention, but also extends to the prohibition of engaging in behavior that damages the psycho-physical integrity of the worker inside the company.
Damage from psycho-physical wear
The Supreme Court has expressed itself, on more than one occasion, on the so-called damage from psycho-physical wear caused by work. The orientation that prevails among the judges of the Supreme Court is to consider it “non-pecuniary damage”, compensable under the law [Art. 2059 of the Civil Code]. This damage must be compensated when the employer has failed to take all necessary precautions to ensure the physical and moral integrity of employees.
Stressful Work Damage: Who Should Experience It?
It is the worker who must prove the violation of contractual obligations to protect psycho-physical integrity as well as the causal link between work stress and the onset of chronic illness [Cass., Sent. n. 10527 of May 13, 2011; Cass., Sent. n. 13614 of 21 June 2011.]. The worker can rely on simple presumptions. The latter, as established by the legislator [Art. 2729 of the Civil Code], are those left to the prudence of the judge. In order for the simple presumption to be recognized as having legal value, the elements taken into consideration by the worker must be serious, precise and consistent: that is, they must be able to show the existence of the unknown fact as a reasonably probable consequence of the known fact, based on to rules of experience [Cf. Cass., Sent. n. 1185 of 18 January 2017; Cass., Sent. n. 14115 of 20 June 2006]. The employer’s burden is to provide evidence to the contrary, which cannot consist in the mere concurrence of the employee’s fault: it must be shown that the employee has engaged in malicious behavior or has generated a particular risk due to the performance of an activity that is not falling within the work duties or going beyond them.
The recent sentence of the Supreme Court
The sentence [Cass., Sent. n. 24361 of 16 October 2017.] with which the Court of Cassation recognized the right to compensation for reasons of service to the worker who had been diagnosed with severe coronary heart failure. The employee had been given the task of representing his own public company in court and this had generated in him a strong state of stress. But what prompted the judges of the Supreme Court to recognize the cause-and-effect relationship between the frenetic work carried out and the onset of the disease? The absence of other causes plausibly capable of causing this serious decompensation: the worker, in fact, was only thirty-six years old (too young to suffer from the disease in question!) family there was no history of heart disease. In these cases the worker is provided with protection from compulsory labor insurance, by Inail and by the company where he works.
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