Electromagnetic hypersensitivity is defined as an allergic reaction to electromagnetic fields. People who suffer from this condition report experiencing a myriad of symptoms when they are exposed to electric fields, magnetic fields, or electromagnetic waves like those produced by mobile phones, certain types of lights, and Wi-Fi signals. If you work in a place where you are exposed to electromagnetic fields on a regular basis and you come down with this condition, you may be wondering if you could collect workers' compensation as a result. Technically you can, but here are two reasons why you probably won't be eligible.
Must Prove the Condition is Real
The biggest challenge you'll face when applying for workers' compensation for electromagnetic hypersensitivity is proving the condition is real. Although you can find quite a few stories of people who claim to suffer from this condition, this allergy is not recognized by the medical or scientific community in the United States.
Part of the issue is researchers have been unable to provoke the onset of symptoms in people who say they have electromagnetic hypersensitivity during clinical studies. In fact, in one double-blind study, participants were unable to detect the presence of electromagnetic fields in their environment.
Another part of the issue is there doesn't appear to be any specific set of symptoms associated with the condition. What people experience when they believe they're being subjected to electric or magnetic fields and waves varies wildly from person to person. In some cases, the symptoms appear to be similar to other conditions such as idiopathic environmental intolerance—a syndrome caused by low-level exposure to chemicals.
To qualify for workers' compensation benefits, the condition you're suffering from must be recognized by the medical community or, at least, be capable of being objectively confirmed, measured, and treated. Unfortunately, electromagnetic hypersensitivity fails in almost all of these areas. Therefore, workers' comp insurance will likely reject your injury claim.
Must Show a Connection to the Workplace
People who develop occupational diseases or conditions as a result of working on their jobs can typically obtain reimbursement for medical bills and other benefits through their employers' workers compensation insurance. For instance, employees who lose some or all their hearing because they were constantly subjected to harmful noises during their employment often qualify for benefits.
To have your claim approved by the insurance company, you must prove to their satisfaction that your condition is the direct result of working on the job. As noted previously, electromagnetic hypersensitivity is not a recognized condition in the United States, though some other countries (e.g. France and Sweden) have awarded citizens compensation for disabilities or injuries caused by this condition.
However, even more relevant to your workers' compensation claim is the fact that no one seems to know what causes people to become sensitive to electromagnetic fields and waves. Because of this, it's next to impossible to definitively state that you developed the disease as a result of working at your job. As a result, the insurance company will likely reject your claim that your employer or the conditions of your job are to blame for your illness.
Other Options for Collecting Compensation
As previously stated, technically it's possible to collect workers' compensation for electromagnetic hypersensitivity. However, the burden of proof is so high that it's unlikely your claim would be approved. It may be possible to still win benefits, though, if you're able to connect your symptoms to something tangible in your workplace.
For instance, if your symptoms fall in line with idiopathic environmental intolerance, then it may be worth the time and effort to determine whether low-level chemicals are being emitted into your work space that could be causing your allergic reactions.
There may be other things you can do to obtain workers' comp benefits for your condition. It's best to discuss the issue with a workers' compensation attorney who can check it out can advise you about your options.