Laid-Off Employee's Heart Attack Ruled Job-Related

March 2, 2009 ( - The Massachusetts Supreme Court has ruled that an administrative assistant who had a heart attack at home after learning her job was terminated was entitled to accidental disability retirement benefits.

Business Insurance reports that, according to the opinion, Claire Cole, an employee of the city of Salem, Massachusetts, was at home when she had the permanently disabling heart attack. It occurred within one hour of being told her job would be cut.

Cole did not return to work, and court records state that when she applied for benefits, “lengthy and tortuous administrative and judicial proceedings” ensued, Business Insurance said. Cole later died.

In 2006, the Contributory Retirement Appeal Board ruled Cole’s heart attack was caused by stress due to hearing her position would be cut and that her communication with her supervisor about the termination occurred during the course of employment. However, the Retirement Board of Salem appealed, arguing that Cole was ineligible for benefits because her injury did not occur during the performance of her work.

A trial court ruled for Cole, and the Supreme Court upheld the trial court’s decision, finding that “benefits may permissibly be awarded only when a disabling injury is sustained during the performance of work duties and not merely as a result of being at work when injured,” according to the news report.