Failure to prove employer knowledge of injury dooms clerk's claim
Gibson v. Ada County Sheriff's Office, No. 34368-2009-81 (Idaho 06/08/09).
The Idaho Supreme Court concluded that a records clerk's claim for benefits was barred because she failed to show that her employer had actual knowledge of her injury.
What it means: In Idaho, an employer has actual knowledge of a psychological workplace injury if the employee also suffered "violence to the physical structure of her body" and the employer was aware of the physical injury.
A former sheriff's office records clerk alleged she suffered from post- traumatic stress disorder after she was investigated for a payroll discrepancy. Detectives interviewed her and she was eventually terminated. Two years later, a psychiatrist diagnosed her with PTSD due to the interviews. He stated her condition should be considered physical as well as mental because it involved changes to brain structures. The court noted Idaho's law requires a psychological injury to be both physical and a mental to be compensable. It also requires that an employer have "considerable knowledge" of the physical injury if the employee fails to notify the employer she was injured. The employer argued that it did not have knowledge of a physical injury arising out of the interviews, as the clerk denied she suffered any physical injury until the psychiatrist's diagnosis two years later. The Idaho Supreme Court upheld the denial of her claim, holding that the employer did not have the requisite knowledge of a physical injury to excuse her failure to give proper notice.
The clerk also claimed she suffered anxiety, depression, panic attacks, poor memory, and the inability to focus. She argued that her employer knew that she suffered a "psychological workplace injury" and that she had manifested symptoms. The court pointed out it did not matter whether the employer knew about her psychological symptoms. The pertinent inquiry was whether it had considerable knowledge of "violence to the physical structure of her body." It noted the clerk did not make the "brain injury" claim until over two years later, and ruled the employee was not entitled to benefits. The panel also said that the worker could be subjected to penalties for fraud.
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July 16, 2009
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