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Emotional Distress

Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

Other than the harassment laws that require a motive such as wanting sex or trying to intimidate persons of different races, the state laws also provide protections for severe forms of other harassment.

However, this type of action requires a higher degree of severity than the normal harassment case in order to prove liability.  In essence, in order to assert a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress under Texas law, an employee must establish that:  (1) the employer acted intentionally or recklessly; (2) the conduct was extreme and outrageous; (3) the employer’s action actually caused the employee’s emotional distress; (4) the emotional distress suffered by employee was severe; and (5) no other law provides protection for this type of conduct. Some courts have said that the conduct must be so extreme, outrageous and intolerable that it goes beyond all possible bounds of decency in a civilized society.   Thus, in most cases, there will not be liability for intentional  infliction of emotional distress based on mere insults or indignities.

However, some truly extreme behavior may give rise to the cause of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress, such as unwanted, repeated physical contact, death threats, threats to family members, or physically menacing or frightening behavior.  In fact, the courts have recently held that less extreme behavior is actionable, such a supervisor’s repeated and ongoing pattern of intimidating and abusive conduct toward his employees, including cursing, intimidating, and degrading his employees an a daily basis. Similarly, an employer may be liable if it allows an employee to constantly ridicule his or her coworker(s) about a physical ailment or condition.

Likewise, an employer may be held liable for the manner in which it tries to coerce an employee to resign, such as demoting and assigning severely demeaning tasks.  Simply put, the list of what is and what is not intentional infliction of emotional distress is very fact specific, and too complex to summarize here.

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