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A 24-year deputy with the Marion County Sheriff’s Department in Oregon saw her claim for post-traumatic stress disorder triggered by a meeting with supervisors denied Wednesday by a state appeals court.
The claimant, who was not named in court proceedings, suffered a compensable episode of PTSD following an inmate attack in 2003. A doctor testified that in 2016 — following a meeting with her supervisors over a claim that she had been harassed by a coworker – her PTSD was “triggered,” according to documents in 305 Or.App. 1, filed in the Court of Appeals of Oregon in Salem.
The meeting was part of an investigation into the deputy’s complaints that she had faced a pattern of harassment and took more than three hours because of “claimant’s inability to directly answer many of the interview questions,” documents state. The internal affairs investigator’s behavior during the interview was also “questionable,” documents state.
The claimant’s union representative was present during the proceeding and recalled, according to documents: “I felt like (claimant) kept getting tripped up. There were several points in that interview where the topics were changed from one topic to the next and then back and around and around and around. I was having a very difficult time following that interview, just how it bounced from place to place to place, so I just felt like, yes, (the investigator) is correct, he can order (claimant) to answer the question, but the manner in which it was done, I just felt like it was — it was difficult.”
The union later wrote that the investigator’s "tactics were inappropriate and they needed to stop immediately” and that the interview caused claimant “a great deal of stress: Her ‘heart was racing,’ she had ‘blurry vision,’ she was ‘very upset,’ she cried during parts of it, and she ‘felt afraid.’ After the interview, claimant experienced ‘shooting pain in (her) arms and shoulders’ and loss of range of motion in her shoulders,” documents state.
The investigator, in turn, concluded that the claimant “had been untruthful,” which was in line with what supervisors had suspected, according to documents.
Following what a doctor concluded was a relapse of PTSD, Marion County and the Workers Compensation Board denied the deputy’s workers compensation claim on the basis that the meeting was part of “reasonable disciplinary (or) corrective … actions” for what her supervisors suspected was “a pattern of untruthfulness” related to the deputy’s allegations of harassment and “bullying,” documents state. Under Oregon law, such a mental injury claimant “must prove that the causal conditions were not reasonable disciplinary or corrective actions,” documents state.
She appealed on a number of grounds, including retaliation, all of which the appeals court rejected in varying degrees.
The appeals court on Wednesday wrote that “the board found that the county undertook its investigation of claimant because of founded concerns about her truthfulness after claimant made inconsistent statements on multiple occasions.”