There is term in the law called “eggshell skull” plaintiff. This refers to a doctrine in tort (i.e. injury) law where the injured person (called the plaintiff in a lawsuit) is unusually susceptible to injury and therefore suffers more than a so-called “normal” plaintiff. The eggshell skull doctrine does not only apply to physical injuries, but applies to emotional and psychological injuries as often found in sexual harassment cases.
Imagine a person with an abnormally thin and fragile skull, like an eggshell. If this person is hit by someone else, they may suffer serious injuries or even death, whereas a person with a normal skull might not suffer at all. The law requires the eggshell skull victim to be fully compensated for all of the harm caused by another, even if the harm is more than would be suffered by a person with a normal skull. We take our victims as we find them.
In the workplace harassment context, the employee victim usually suffers some form of emotional and psychological injury. They may also suffer economic or monetary damages, such as lost past or future wages and benefits. Where the harassment involves unwanted touching or sexual conduct, the emotional and psychological impact can be devastating.
In certain cases, the sexual harassment victim may suffer from a pre-existing mental illness or have been the victim of a prior sexual assault or other unwanted sexual touching. These are usually the most serious cases resulting in the greatest injuries. Persons that have been subject to abuse in the past are often unusually and more susceptible to the emotional and psychological injuries as may be caused by sexual harassment. These persons are considered eggshell skull plaintiffs. Sometimes these persons have pre-existing psychological injuries that have never been treated, rendering them more susceptible to further injury.
This type of victimization can lead to depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, panic attacks, sleeplessness, nightmares, fear, worry, guilt, shame and a host of other symptoms. It is important that all persons suffering from sexual harassment at work seek professional help from a qualified therapist or psychiatrist.