Here’s some good news for employers fighting sexual harassment claims: Employees who claim they worked in an environment so sexually hostile that they suffered psychological damage may have to undergo a mental examination and intensive testing before the case goes to trial.
It’s the only way an employer can determine whether the alleged damage was indeed related to the harassment, or perhaps came from another source.
Recent case: Michelle Powers claimed that while she worked for Chase Bankcard Services, she had been forced to work in a sexually hostile environment.
After she was fired, she sued, alleging she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and had to be treated by a mental health professional.
She told the court she wanted three counselors to testify on her behalf.
She didn’t like it when Chase asked the court to order a mental examination. Her attorney asked the court to place restrictions on the kind of testing Chase could conduct.
But the court said Powers herself had called into question her mental state. Therefore it was only fair to let Chase explore her condition and conduct its own tests. (Powers v. Chase Bankcard Services, No. 2:10-CV-332, SD OH, 2011)
Final note: Sexual harassment cases are unique in that employees have to show how they viewed the harassing behavior and that it was unwelcome.
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- Threatening, but not hostile