Tuesday, October 13, 2009
IIED Tort Difficult to Establish in Employment Context in Texas: What Is Extreme and Outrageous Treatment of Employee?
Elements of Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED) Cause of Action The elements of the cause of action of intentional infliction of emotional distress are (1) the defendant acted intentionally or recklessly; (2) the defendant's conduct was extreme and outrageous; (3) the actions of the defendant caused the plaintiff emotional distress; and (4) the emotional distress suffered by the plaintiff was severe. Texas Farm Bureau Mut. Ins. Co. v. Sears, 84 S.W.3d 604, 610 (Tex. 2002). What kind of behavior by the boss rises to the level of "extreme and outrageous"? Extreme and outrageous conduct is conduct 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 society. Id. Texas has adopted a strict approach to intentional infliction of emotional distress claims arising in the workplace. GTE Southwest, Inc. v. Bruce, 998 S.W.2d 605, 612-13 (Tex. 1999) (holding supervisor's ongoing acts of harassment, intimidation, and humiliation, and daily obscene and vulgar behavior went beyond the bounds of tolerable work behavior and were within the realm of extreme and outrageous conduct). While an employer's conduct in the workplace may sometimes be unpleasant for the employee, the employer must have some discretion to supervise, review, criticize, demote, transfer, and discipline its workers. Sears, 84 S.W.3d at 611. Thus, Texas courts decline to recognize intentional infliction of distress claims for ordinary employment disputes, recognizing that extreme conduct in this context exists only in the most unusual circumstances. Id. SOURCE: 04-08-00146-CV (7/1/09) (San Antonio Court of Appeals)