No separate emotional distress claims if conduct is covered by IHRA

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in Discrimination and Harassment,FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

Employees and their lawyers are always looking for ways to increase the damages they can extract from employers that make mistakes.

Fortunately, they can’t heap additional claims on top of a basic claim made on similar grounds under the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA). If the IHRA provides a remedy, that’s the only one available for the same basic claim, even when a manager or supervisor behaves outrageously.

Recent case:
Shirley Boring worked as a payroll clerk for a World Gym location in Illinois. Boring had an inoperable brain tumor, but kept working. She discovered accounting irregularities and reported her suspicion that one of the owners, part of a husband-and-wife team, was stealing. Boring was fired.

Boring sued, alleging FMLA and ADA violations and wrongful and retaliatory discharge, plus intentional infliction of emotional distress. Boring told the court that the wife whom she suspected was stealing left a voice mail message taunting, “Aren’t you dead yet from that brain tumor, bitch?” The other owner allegedly told Boring, “If you were a horse, they would shoot you.”

The court dismissed the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim, reasoning that the cruel comments were a form of disability discrimination illegal under the IHRA and not separate claims. It did let her wrongful-discharge claim go forward. (Boring v. World Gym, No. 06-C-3260, ND IL, 2008)

Final note: Despite this decision, employees can still add federal Title VII, ADA and FMLA claims to their cases. Those are not preempted by state law, but are additional legal avenues.

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