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Book Reviews   |    
Sexual Harassment: Psychiatric Assessment in Employment Litigation
Reviewed by J. Scott Stanley
Psychiatric Services 2006; doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.57.7.1053

by Liza H. Gold, M.D.; Washington, D.C., American Psychiatric Publishing Inc., 2004, 292 pages, $59

Dr. Stanley is assistant professor of psychiatry in the Divisions of Forensic Neuropsychiatry and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry of Tulane University School of Medicine. He is medical director of the forensic sexual offender evaluation and treatment program.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports that there has been a dramatic increase in sexual harassment complaints since the early 1980s. In the first five years of the 1980s only a handful of complaints were filed. But since 1986 there has been a virtual explosion in the number of filings, plateauing this decade at around 15,000 new complaints each year (1). Yet, if one reviews the major forensic psychiatry textbooks, the subject of sexual harassment is mentioned rarely if at all (2,3,4). This is not a criticism of these textbooks; it is merely a reflection of how rapidly this field has exploded. Indeed, it is doubtlessly a fact that many past graduates of good forensic psychiatry programs were able to complete their fellowships without working on a sexual harassment case. This lack of experience is precisely why this book is an important contribution to the forensic literature.

In this well-researched and highly readable textbook, Dr. Gold draws a roadmap for clinicians to get "up to speed" on this topic. She introduces the reader to the relevance of psychiatry in sexual harassment complaints and places this in an historic and legal context while gently reminding the reader of the ethical principles of forensic practice. Ethics are detailed in most forensic textbooks, but these principles cannot be repeated often enough.

Dr. Gold's chapter on bias in cases of sexual harassment is particularly helpful. Bias is involved in any highly emotional case, and the examiner must be aware of his or her own preconceptions and assumptions as well as those of others involved in the case. In the next chapter she introduces some conceptual frameworks that the evaluator may use to keep the case within an objective context. Her chapter on the science of sexual harassment and issue raised by Daubert vs. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals is particularly strong. Because many of the cases are filed in federal court, the expert must always be mindful of the admissibility standard for testimony, and this chapter is very helpful.

Later chapters on the use of psychiatric diagnosis and the assessment of damages are useful reading for anyone who works in the field as an expert witness, not only those who accept sexual harassment cases. And the framework for conducting an examination will be especially useful for the less experienced examiner.

Dr. Gold's references are well considered, broad, and accurate, and her use of landmark cases is extensive and well researched.

I could find few criticisms, and those that I have are perhaps matters of personal taste. Her use of landmark cases is appropriate, and most cases are well explained. Some were cited only with name and holding. I find landmark cases are most helpful when a fuller context is provided, but again, this is mostly a matter of personal taste. I also found her chapter that discusses sexual harassment in context at times tentative and almost apologetic. Her points in this chapter are all well taken, and I would have liked for her to either elaborate a bit on them or steer the reader to further research. Finally, Dr. Gold warns less experienced clinicians that there is much to know before accepting sexual harassment cases. She cautions the reader to extensively study the subject matter and recognize the need for experience. A few lines about how a clinician could gain experience—by mentorship, for example—would be helpful. But these criticisms are minor and do nothing to take away from the work's fulfilling its goals.

This textbook should be considered required reading for all forensic mental health experts. Some parts should also be considered by general psychiatry residency directors. People working in the legal field and in risk management may also find it useful. Overall it is an excellent read and fills a substantial gap in the literature very nicely.

Trends in Harassment Charges Filed With The EEOC. Available at www.eeoc.gov/stats/harassment.html
 
Melton GB, Petrila J, Poythress NG, et al (eds): Psychological Evaluations for the Courts: A Handbook for Mental Health Professionals and Lawyers, 2nd ed. New York, Guilford, 1997
 
Rosner R (ed): Principles and Practice of Forensic Psychiatry, 2nd ed. London, Arnold Press, 2003
 
Simon RI, Gold LH (eds): The American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Forensic Psychiatry. Washington, DC, American Psychiatric Press, 2003
 
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References

Trends in Harassment Charges Filed With The EEOC. Available at www.eeoc.gov/stats/harassment.html
 
Melton GB, Petrila J, Poythress NG, et al (eds): Psychological Evaluations for the Courts: A Handbook for Mental Health Professionals and Lawyers, 2nd ed. New York, Guilford, 1997
 
Rosner R (ed): Principles and Practice of Forensic Psychiatry, 2nd ed. London, Arnold Press, 2003
 
Simon RI, Gold LH (eds): The American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Forensic Psychiatry. Washington, DC, American Psychiatric Press, 2003
 
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