Only truly outrageous conduct can add up to intentional infliction of emotional distress

Ohio law allows individuals to sue for intentional infliction of emotional distress, including cases that arise from work-related incidents. Fortunately for ­employers, uncaring or insensitive incidents don’t qualify. The circumstances must be truly outrageous.

Recent case: Connie Cheadle claimed her employer illegally fired her after she requested FMLA leave for her husband’s serious health condition. She sued under the FMLA and Ohio state law. Her lawsuit included one state law claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Cheadle argued that the decision to terminate her while her husband was ill was extreme and outrageous conduct. That’s the standard for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The court said that to win, she had to show that the conduct was so extreme or outrageous as “to be intolerable in a civilized community.” Nothing she described was quite that bad. She couldn’t provide any detailed account of the firing showing outrageousness.

The court dismissed her claim. (Cheadle v. Genco I, No. 2:11-CV-566, SD OH, 2011)

Final note: Treat everyone with dignity. That means never disciplining someone in front of co-workers, or openly accusing someone of theft. Always carry out terminations in a private setting.

In other words, don’t do anything you would be embarrassed to have your mother read in the paper. If you follow that rule, chances are you will never lose an emotional-distress case.