Did A Hostile Work Environment Force You Into Retirement? What Are Your Options?

Many Americans dream of the day they retire, anticipating the celebration of a last hurrah with coworkers and cake before beginning a new chapter of leisure and time spent with family. Sadly, in some cases retirement comes on much more suddenly, and you may find yourself unable to return to full-time work after being sent over the edge of sanity by an emotionally or physically abusive boss or another type of hostile work environment. Do you have any recourse against your employer if your involuntary retirement takes place well before typical retirement age? Read on to learn more about how worker’s compensation, long-term disability, and Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits can come into play when forced into early retirement by a hostile work environment.

Will emotional pain and suffering be covered by worker’s compensation?

The majority of injuries or illnesses caused by one’s workplace will fall under the employer’s worker’s compensation insurance plan. This insurance helps pay lost wages, medical expenses, and any other costs to an employee stemming from his or her on-the-job injury. While you may assume this insurance also covers emotional damage or mental distress caused by an employer’s hostile work environment, this may not always be the case.

Many states have set a higher threshold for mental or emotional worker’s compensation claims as compared to those for physical injuries. For example, if an employee is injured after tripping over a loose section of carpet, he or she may qualify for worker’s compensation even if he or she could have potentially avoided the injury by not texting while walking. However, those alleging mental or emotional distress may be required to show that the employer was made aware of the hostile work environment and took no (or inadequate) steps to stop the abuse before qualifying for worker’s compensation. 

What are your options for income after being forced into an early disability retirement?

If you’re not sure your claim will qualify for worker’s compensation coverage (or if you’ve already submitted a claim and received a denial letter), you likely still have some options. In many cases, you’ll qualify for short-term or long-term disability coverage through your employer even if you aren’t covered by worker’s comp. These policies pay you a portion of your pre-retirement salary for a set period of time, and may allow you to draw a regular income long enough to qualify for Social Security Disability.

SSD is a federal disability program designed to provide you with a monthly income for the rest of your life (or until you’re able to return to full-time work). Like Social Security retirement, the amount of SSD for which you’ll qualify depends on your earnings history and average annual salary, but is generally enough to cover at least basic living expenses. This can be a great way to help keep the bills paid while seeking counseling or other therapy to help deal with the after-effects of your workplace abuse.