Workplace Rights

Weekly (4/18/22)

Topic of the Week  Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

If an employer has behaved in an outrageous manner and caused you severe emotional distress, you might be the victim of Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED). 

Intentional infliction of emotional distress is sometimes referred to as the "tort of outrage." In some cases, the circumstances of termination are so cruel, intimidating and severe that an employee suffers extreme emotional upset. In certain instances, it is unlawful for an employer to deliberately cause an employee serious emotional harm.

1. Am I the victim of Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress?

Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED) occurs when your employer purposely causes severe emotional distress to you as a result of extreme and outrageous conduct. Examples of Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress claims can include racial insults, sex discrimination, false imprisonment, and conduct that threaten your physical security (a physical injury is not necessary).

2. Can I bring an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim if my employer fires me?

No. Termination of employment by itself, even if it is wrong or without cause, is not extreme and outrageous conduct.

3. Are there any federal laws prohibiting IIED?

No, IIED is a state law issue and so you will have to check the statutes where you work in order to determine exactly what kind of conduct is prohibited within your jurisdiction.

Thought of the Week

"The reasoning behind the impact rule has generally been that emotional harm may be difficult to prove, damages are not easily defined, and the cause of such an injury can be elusive. The underlying basis for the impact rule is that allowing recovery for injuries resulting from purely emotional distress would open the floodgates for fictitious or speculative claims. Thus, the impact rule has been applied as a limitation to assure the validity of claims for emotional and psychological harm."

–Elliot v. Elliott, 58 So. 3d 878, 880–81

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    You may have experienced IIED if an employer's conduct toward you was:

    • Extreme and outrageous, beyond the bounds of acceptable conduct in a civilized society
    • Intended to, or could reasonably be foreseen to, cause a reasonable person serious emotional trauma
    • Actually the cause of severe and serious emotional distress for you

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