Work Bullies and Tort Claims

An employee who has been threatened and suffers apprehension of a future injury may have an opportunity to successfully assert a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. If the conduct of an employer intentionally or recklessly causes an employee to experience severe emotional pain and suffering, an employee may be able to assert claims for infliction of emotional distress.

Negligent infliction of emotional distress claim as a civil lawsuit is barred by Pennsylvania law. The Workers’ Compensation Act (“WCA”) provides the exclusive remedies for work-related injuries. A party alleging injury may go beyond the remedies under the Workers’ Compensation Act when the behavior is intentional and based upon a personal animus for the victim. Thus, if the acts of a co-worker are “intended to injure the employee because of reasons personal to him and not directed against him as an employee or because of his employment” the employee may have a civil cause of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

However, the standard under Pennsylvania law for an employee or former employee to successfully state a claim for Intentional Infliction of emotional distress is high. It is important to note that claims based on “personal animus” may hinder an employee’s ability to hold an employer vicariously liable.

As a matter of law, the behavior must be of the type of “extreme and outrageous conduct that is deliberate or reckless and causes severe emotional distress” that goes “beyond all possible bounds of decency and is regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized society.”

As a result, for conduct to be actionable, it must consist of more than just “bullying, abusive, improper and highly offensive conduct.” There have been many Pennsylvania cases where significant sexist or sexual behavior in the workplace did not support a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. The ultimate query is whether the allegations make the “average community member exclaim “Outrageous!”

Powell Law has represented injured workers for 115 years and has a distinguished reputation throughout northeastern Pennsylvania for adhering to the highest standards in serving those injured on the job. Correctly calculating an injured worker’s compensation rate is both a complicated and critical undertaking. An incorrect calculation may lead to costly litigation, penalties, even the disallowance of a claim under some circumstances. In 1906, James Powell, Sr. founded Powell Law. Since then, our attorneys have litigated workers’ compensation cases involving all types of workplace injuries. Contact Powell Law at (570) 961-0777. The consultation is FREE, and you don’t pay unless we win!

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