While some may think it’s all in good fun, no employee should be the butt of bad jokes or other potentially embarrassing and humiliating conduct. Once started, such behavior often takes on a life of its own. It then becomes difficult to stop.
That’s why it’s so important to put an end to such behavior before it’s too late—before the targeted employee files an infliction-of-emotional-distress lawsuit under Texas state law.
Recent case: Garlan Cunningham sued her former employer for intentional infliction of emotional distress. She claimed that a month before she was fired, upper-levelsent around a memo in verse form entitled, “Lazy cowboy left in saddle too long.” The poem criticized Cunningham’s work ethic, among other insults.
But the court looked at other Texas cases and concluded that one incident, even an insensitive one like this, wasn’t enough to constitute intentional infliction of emotional distress. To meet that standard, the employer’s conduct must be extreme and outrageous, and must have caused severe emotional distress. While a pattern of such memos might meet that standard, just one did not. (Cunningham v. Richeson Management Corporation, No. 06-10320, 5th Cir., 2007)