Dear Blue Collar,
A probationary new-hire just filed a claim for PTSD after our office fire alarm sounded. WCB said something about a ‘thin-skull’ rule, and how the trauma is somehow related to the worker’s upbringing in Somalia. Pardon the rant, but on what planet does a fire alarm trigger PTSD?
(A) The ‘thin skull’ doctrine holds that a permanent impairment following an accident is fully compensable even if a pre-existing health condition – i.e., to take the classic example, a victim’s damaged skull being inordinately thin – is found to be impacting on that impairment. One must, as WCB has declared, take accident victims as one finds them, thin skull or not.
Given WCB’s expanded notions of what defines trauma, a ‘thin skin’ rule has effectively supplanted thin skull. The thin skin rule adopts all the musculoskeletal implications of thin skull, but in addition, stretches the doctrine to include psychological fragility. And hence, in your particular case, where someone uniquely prone to mental injury is hired, you own the consequences.
To be clear, the foregoing isn’t meant to disparage the worker, as there are evils perpetrated abroad that are unconscionable to the Western mind. And yet, it behooves employers to be mindful of their exposure to this liability.