1. Establishing Stress Claims
N.J.S.A. 34:15-30 provides that an employer is responsible for an occupational disease resulting in injury or death to an employee. This section does not differentiate between an occupational disease as a result of an exposure to deleterious substances or cumulative trauma. This Section contains an exception if the injury or death by occupational disease is caused by willful, self-exposure to a known hazard or the employee's willful failure to make use of reasonable and proper guards or personal protective devices furnished by the employer. However, the exception is an affirmative defense that must be proven by the employer who must show that use of protective devices is a requirement of the employment and the employer properly documents that despite repeated warnings, the employee has willfully failed to use the devices. This exception does not apply to emergent situations, though emergent circumstances often suggest a traumatic event and one that does not occur over time. Most occupational claims are for exposures to circumstances or stressors that occur over time.