In some types of employment law matters, employees sometimes bring a companion claim — formally known as a claim for “Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress”.
Often times it fails because it is a very difficult claim to establish in the workplace. Why? Because the employee must show that the behavior was “extreme and outrageous”.
Courts have used an oft-repeated quote to figure this out and have even used this for jury instructions:
Liability has been found only where the conduct has been so outrageous in character, and so extreme in degree, as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency, and to be regarded as atrocious, and utterly intolerable in a civilized community. Generally, the case is one in which the recitation of the facts to an average member of the community would arouse his resentment against the actor, and lead him to exclaim, ‘Outrageous!’.
Now, I’m not sure that too many people go around just exclaiming “Outrageous”, but perhaps that’s the court’s point. It is the rare case that meets this criteria.
In a case to be officially released by the Connecticut Appellate Court next week, the Court once again rejected the employee’s claims.
In Cassotto v. Aeschilman (download here), the employee claimed four things:
(1) Defendant deliberately misinformed the plaintiff about a directive from his superior, thereby placing him at risk of violating work rules; (2) falsely reported to others, whose identities are unknown to the plaintiff, that the plaintiff engaged in outbursts and irrational behavior; (3) became ‘‘violently angry’’ at the plaintiff such that he feared for his physical safety and (4) on one occasion ‘‘look[ed] directly at the plaintiff and stat[ed]: ‘Bang. Bang.’
While such conduct — if true — may be “upsetting” to the employee, this court said, these incidents over a three year period are not extreme and outrageous. “The occurrences alleged by the plaintiff may very well have been distressing and hurtful to him. They do not, however, constitute extreme and outrageous conduct within the scope of the precedents of our Supreme Court and this court.”
What’s the takeaway for employers? If you do have a case where these types of claims are brought up, considering filing a motion to dismiss or strike those claims early. Regardless, however, make sure to set rules on proper employee conduct and have avenues available for employees to complain about conduct.