Myles M. Mattenson
5550 Topanga Canyon Blvd.
Suite 200
Woodland Hills, California 91367
Telephone (818) 313-9060
Facsimile (818) 313-9260
"Stressed Because Your Employer’s Stock
In Your Retirement Fund Is In Rapid Descent?
Do You Have A Workers’ Compensation Claim?"

      Myles M. Mattenson engages in a general civil and trial practice including litigation and transactional services relating to the coin laundry and dry cleaning industries, franchising, business, purchase and sale of real estate, easements, landlord-tenant, partnership, corporate, insurance bad faith, personal injury, and probate legal matters.

      In providing services to the coin laundry and dry cleaning industries, Mr. Mattenson has represented equipment distributors, coin laundry and dry cleaning business owners confronted with landlord-tenant issues, lease negotiations, sale documentation including agreements, escrow instructions, and security instruments, as well as fraud or misrepresentation controversies between buyers and sellers of such businesses.

      Mr. Mattenson serves as an Arbitrator for the Los Angeles County Superior Court. He is also past chair of the Law Office Management Section of the Los Angeles County Bar Association. Mr. Mattenson received his Bachelor of Science degree (Accounting) in 1964 and his Juris Doctorate degree from Loyola University School of Law in 1967.

      Bi-monthly articles by Mr. Mattenson on legal matters of interest to the business community appear in alternate months in The Journal, a leading coin laundry industry publication of the Coin Laundry Association, and Fabricare, a leading dry cleaning industry publication of the International Fabricare Institute. During the period of May 1995 through September 2002, Mr. Mattenson contributed similar articles to New Era Magazine, a coin laundry and dry cleaning industry publication which ceased publication with the September 2002 issue.

      This website contains copies of Mr. Mattenson's New Era Magazine articles which can be retrieved through a subject or chronological index. The website also contains copies of Mr. Mattenson's Journal and Fabricare articles, which can be retrieved through a chronological index.

      In addition to Mr. Mattenson's trial practice, he has successfully prosecuted and defended appeals on behalf of his clients in various areas of the law. Some of these appellate decisions are contained within his website.







We all encounter stress in our daily lives.  Stress can be work-related or result from events in our personal lives.


When events occur during the course of employment which cause stress, the employer is likely to be presented with a workers’ compensation claim for psychiatric injury.  Some claims are considered valid; others are rejected.  How do the courts discern a valid work-related psychiatric injury?


The backdrop of our illustration is the tumultuous deregulation of the utility industry in California and the related uncertainty about the financial health of Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E).


An employee of PG&E, Clifford, claimed stress and sought workers’ compensation for what he considered to be a work-related psychiatric injury.  Clifford had worked for PG&E for over 30 years.  He initially started work as a meter reader and eventually became a “collector.” The court recites: 


“As a ‘collector’ he went to the homes of delinquent customers to either collect money or turn off the gas and electric service.  In the course of 13 years in this ‘thankless job’ Clifford was dog-bitten, cursed out, chased out [had] rocks thrown at [him], guns shoved in [his] chest, [and] called everything you could imagine.”


Nonetheless, Clifford said he “loved that job” because he “could walk away from it.”


Clifford’s job as a collector was eliminated in 1998 and he thereafter took a job at the front counter.  Clifford found his new job also stressful. 


“He worked in a small room serving customers who ‘did not like the company.’  He was ‘out there everyday listening to abusive comments.’  The ‘smell was atrocious.’  Some customers would even threaten violence.”


The stress level in Clifford’s work environment increased in 2000 when the state was experiencing a period of brown-outs and black-outs, and the company was going into serious debt.  Clifford noted an increase in customer complaints.  In that year, Clifford is reported to have started having chest pains for which he sought medical care.


The court notes that:


“The pressure on Clifford increased yet again when PG&E filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy April 6, 2001.  [Clifford] was concerned, as were all PG&E employees, when the bankruptcy was filed.  He had savings and stock in the company.  He had all his stock in PG&E from the day he was eligible to buy PG&E stock.  In April 2001 . . . he had approximately $200,000 in PG&E stock.” (emphasis added)


Clifford considered the pressure so great that he was forced to leave work on October 5, 2001. 


At the Workers Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) hearing, one doctor testified that Clifford was suffering from major  depressive disorder, and that he was “temporarily totally disabled.”  Another doctor attributed Clifford’s difficulty to ”’personal non-industrial stressors,” including the fact that Clifford had a hernia, that he was a recovering alcoholic, that his father had died recently, and that his daughter had medical problems.”


The WCAB awarded benefits to Clifford for a work-related psychiatric  injury; however, the appellate court reversed the award and ordered a new trial.  The court noted that in order for a psychiatric injury to be compensable, an employee must demonstrate that actual events of employment account for more than 50% of psychiatric disability.  The court defined “an event” to be “something that takes place,” and that “it must arise out of an employee’s working relationship with his or her employer.”


Consequently, the court determined that anxiety over one’s future in a company struggling to survive during difficult economic times does not qualify as work-related stress.  The court also noted that a “fear of job loss due to management strategies to achieve increased profitability, such as “outsourcing” of jobs to an overseas working force, cannot support a compensable claim. . . .”  To consider this type of fear a form of work-related stress, as the court notes, would allow “all employees who work for a troubled company” to submit such claims and “subject employers to virtually unlimited liability.”


The court noted that Clifford’s new assignment to interact with irate customers on a daily basis was certainly a work-related factor; however, the court rejected Clifford’s concern regarding his stock losses:


“According to the record, Clifford voluntarily invested his retirement funds in PG&E stock, believing it was in his best interests to do so.  There is no evidence that Clifford was obligated under the terms of his employment to invest his retirement funds that way; nor is there evidence of an employer incentive to invest in PG&E stock.  His investment loss was no different than that experienced by the general investing public.” (emphasis added)


Thus, Clifford’s concern over the stability and value of his retirement fund arose out of a personal decision to invest his retirement fund in PG&E stock and was not an event of employment.


An employee who has incurred a real or paper loss in an investment in his employer’s stock is likely to incur stress; however, workers’ compensation is simply not available for this type of stress.


The moral of the story?  Diversify your investments!

[This column is intended to provide general information only  and
is  not intended to provide specific legal advice; if you have  a
specific  question  regarding the  law,  you  should  contact  an
attorney  of your choice.  Suggestions for topics to be discussed
in this column are welcome.]

Reprinted from The Journal
Myles M. Mattenson © 2005