Matter of Mack v. County of Rockland

A psychiatric social worker asserted a claim for occupational disease, claiming that, as a result of exposure to cigarette smoke in a close working area over a two-year period, her eyes had become irritated to the point she was unable to perform her duties.  A workers’ compensation judge had determined that the worker had established that she suffered from an occupational disease but the Workers’ Compensation Board reversed the decision.  The Supreme Court, Appellate Division affirmed.  On appeal, the Court of Appeals held that the aggravation of a preexisting eye disorder as a result of exposure to cigarette smoke in a poorly ventilated room was caused solely by environmental conditions of the workplace, not by any distinctive features of her occupation as a psychiatric social worker and, thus, was not an “occupational disease” for purposes of the Workers’ Compensation Law.

71 N.Y.2d 1008, 530 N.Y.S.2d 98, 525 N.E.2d 744 (1988), affirming 128 A.D.2d 922, 512 N.Y.S. 2d 732, (1987).