Dear Blue Collar,
The wheels are falling off the world. 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 that the trauma is somehow related to her upbringing in Somalia. Pardon the rant, but on what planet does a fire alarm trigger PTSD?
(A) While I’m not privy to the whole story, I’ve encountered many similar cases. The “thin skull” doctrine holds that a permanent impairment following an accident is fully compensable even if an accident victim’s pre-existing health condition – i.e., to take the classic example, the victim’s damaged skull being inordinately thin – is found to be impacting on that impairment. In calculating compensation, one must, as WCB and the courts have said, take accident victims as one finds them, thin skull or not.
In response to Bill 30’s passage, Blue Collar has coined a new term: the ‘thin-skin’ rule. The thin-skin rule adopts all the musculoskeletal implications of thin-skull, but in addition, expands the doctrine to include psychological vulnerabilities. And hence, when you hire someone uniquely prone to PTSD, you own the consequences.
To be clear, none of the foregoing is meant to disparage the worker, as there are evils perpetrated in war-torn parts of Africa that are unconscionable to the Western mind. And yet, it behooves employers to be aware of their exposure nonetheless.