From the common law, and fully recognized in California, is a cause of action called “Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress”. It is a rare lawsuit brought on behalf of our California employees that we don’t include this cause of action. If we don’t, its usually for strategic reasons unrelated to our ability to show all of the elements needed to prevail. . Match up how you’ve been treated at work with these and contact us if there’s a fit:
1. How bad is the conduct? If it is outrageous and exceeds all bounds of common decency usually tolerated, then its probably actionable. This is done on a case-by-case basis and filtered through the prism of the appraiser’s values, sensitivity threshold and basic standards of civilization. One California court has called it more intuitive than analytic. Yurick vs. Superior court, 109, CA3d 1116 (1989).
2. At work, did your employer or supervisor abuse a position of power over you? In the famous case of Alcorn vs. Anbro Engineering, Inc, 2 Cal3d 493 (1970), the California Supreme court found intentional infliction of emotional distress where the supervisor shouted racial epithets and terminated the employee without cause. Severe emotional distress does not always involve termination of employment; it can be free-standing and occur regularly.
3. Does your supervisor know that you are susceptible to emotional distress? In an insurance case, the insurer was liable for emotional distress when it refused to pay plaintiff’s valid disability clam and created a non-existent dispute, knowing the plaintiff was disabled. Fletch vs. Western National Life, 10 Cal App 3d 376 (1970). In another case right out of the horrific, a bank continued to call the customer and make threats even though he was told to speak only to the plaintiff’s attorney, and the bank knew plaintiff was elderly). In a union case, physical threats against the wife and children of the plaintiff if he did not rejoin the union were reprehensible and outrageous. In our next blog, we’ll cite some more examples of outrageous conduct at work. Teaser: one such case we’ll tell you about is a company who posted threatening messages to one employee on the company website.
Remember this blog is educational in nature only and legal advise can only be given by an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction. We practice employment law in all major California cities including Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Bermardino, San Diego, Pasadena, Simi Valley, Fresno and San Francisco.