The New Hampshire Compensation Appeals Board (“CAB”) ruled that an employee’s employment aggravated the symptoms of her preexisting condition, “multiple chemical sensitivity syndrome,” despite the fact that there was no evidence that the job either caused her condition or exposed her to chemicals. The only workplace cause for the aggravation was that the employee was “surrounded by the eleven women co-workers, some wearing fragrances.” The New Hampshire Supreme Court reversed the CAB. While acknowledging the deference to be given the CAB’s decision, the Court reaffirmed its holding in Heinz v. Concord Union School Dist. that a compensable injury “must result from the conditions and obligations of the employment and not merely from the bare existence of the employment.” The Court found that the symptoms did not arise out of her employment, rejecting the employee’s argument that the mere duration of her exposure, a normal workday, was an aggravating factor.
NELF’s amicus brief argued that nothing about the employee’s job was any different from what people ordinarily experience at work. NELF pointed out that the CAB decision, taken to its logical extreme, would enable every employee who has difficulty tolerating normal work conditions to receive worker’s compensation benefits even if the cause of the difficulty had nothing to do with the job. NELF also argued that the Board’s decision would increase worker’s compensation costs, and employers might refrain from hiring employees with allergies or other pre-existing conditions.