Because damages are unlimited in Pennsylvania common-law tort claims, disgruntled employees and their attorneys sometimes try to turn run-of-the-mill harassment cases into intentional-infliction-of-emotional-distress lawsuits. The payoff can be huge.
Fortunately, the law does require the distress be genuine and the conduct “outrageous.”
Recent case: Mary, who is white, worked for the Bucks County Domestic Relations Office. The agency handles paternity and child support matters. Mary had recently adopted a black infant.
Apparently as a prank, a co-worker scanned a photo of the baby that Mary kept on her bulletin board and electronically placed it in an agency document listing the county’s top 10 deadbeat parents. Then he showed it to Mary and other co-workers. Mary took offense and complained to her supervisor. The co-worker apologized and Mary accepted the apology.
A year later, Mary quit after her performance rating fell and she was told to improve. Then she sued, alleging that the prank had caused her intense emotional distress.
The agency pointed out that the co-worker had apologized and Mary had accepted the apology.
The court said that while the incident was in poor taste, there was nothing outrageous about it that would have caused severe emotional distress. It tossed out Mary’s claim. (Kasper v. County of Bucks, et al., No. 12-2504, 3rd Cir., 2013)
Final note: Of course, you should warn workers against pranks. They are productivity zappers.
Like what you've read? ...Republish it and share great business tips!
Attention: Readers, Publishers, Editors, Bloggers, Media, Webmasters and more...
We believe great content should be read and passed around. After all, knowledge IS power. And good business can become great with the right information at their fingertips. If you'd like to share any of the insightful articles on BusinessManagementDaily.com, you may republish or syndicate it without charge.
The only thing we ask is that you keep the article exactly as it was written and formatted. You also need to include an attribution statement and link to the article.
" This information is proudly provided by Business Management Daily.com: http://www.businessmanagementdaily.com/35128/watch-out-simple-harassment-suits-can-suddenly-become-costly-emotional-distress-claims "
- You don't have to put up with insubordination
- Brief tenure, quick settlement with El Paso Starbucks
- Equal opportunity for women trumps even outrageous reaction to resignation
- Good-faith investigation of harassment cuts your liability risk -- even if you were wrong
- You don't have to police workplace banter, but don't let it escalate