Forensic Assessment of Harassment and Discrimination in a Workplace

Harassment and discrimination can be claimed on the basis of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or as a result of whistle blowing. In recent years, harassment and discrimination complaints have included complaints of emotional injury arising from a hostile work environment. Complicating forensic assessments of workplace harassment is a paucity of physical evidence. Both sides become so polarized in their verbal recollections over the course of litigation, there may remain no reliable informants about words exchanged or feelings inspired.

Forensic psychiatrists are precluded from offering opinion on whether an environment is hostile or abusive. Forensic evaluations focus on assessing the degree of emotional distress, its duration and causation, as well as its prognosis. However, psychiatric examination may introduce additional information that indirectly influences the forensic determination of whether a hostile environment existed, or corroborating that the examinee was reasonable in experiencing the workplace as hostile or abusive.

Some individuals are particularly hypersensitive to others’ actions in a way that bears on the legitimacy of their complaint. The personality-disordered, for example, would have difficulties in a typical interpersonal situation – that is why they earn the psychiatric diagnostic distinction of being personality disordered.

Engaging employees that are no longer with the defendant company, bearing no grudges or vested interest, may enhance the collateral input available to the examiner. So may a visit to the actual workplace. History from collateral sources is also necessary in order to confirm or rule out personality disorder, especially since those diagnoses reflect longstanding patterns across the adult life span.

Some courts resist making collateral information available for forensic examination. We at The Forensic Panel feel that courts who are interested in honest results provide full access to relevant sources of information, be it employment records, past psychiatric treatment records, divorce or other litigation history, among other possibilities.

Each case poses specific history that is best explored for its clinical significance through a variety of witnesses and sources. Our expert assessments, delicately tailored to each case’s facts, bear the oversight of The Forensic Panel’s peer review. The peer reviewers assist development of a complete list of sources of information that benefit the forensic examination, and what should be inquired of them. Such a determined and thorough approach, along with evidence-based emphasis for determining a psychiatric diagnosis, enhances the fair disposition of harassment and discrimination complaints with medical certainty, amidst facts that may otherwise involve contradictory charges and vague denials, sometimes in the same case.

The more complex the pursuit of truth, the more The Forensic Panel distinguishes the quality of our evaluations, as they present to opposing counsel and to the court.