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Court orders exam: Did harassment cause PTSD?

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in Human Resources

Good news for employers fighting claims of men­­tal harm: Courts have begun or­­dering mental exams when employees claim that a specific mental illness such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was caused by harassment or bias. That may discourage claims.

Recent case: Angela Walton alleged that her supervisor had sexually harassed her, resulting in depression and PTSD. Her lawyers resisted efforts by her employer to conduct a psychiatric examination.

The court ordered one, reasoning that Walton’s claims went beyond the garden-variety emotional distress many employees suffer.

It reasoned that because Walton had a specific diagnosis, the jury might need assistance understanding her alleged condition. Had she claimed general emo­­tional upset, the jury could simply apply its common sense. (Walton v. North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, No. 5:09-CV-302, ED NC, 2011)

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