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Until recently, employers did not have much to fear if they were sued by former employees for the intentional infliction of emotional distress. In fact, courts often dismissed these claims, regardless of how egregious the conduct of the employer. To prove intentional inflict of emotional distress, or IIED, employees must show that they have suffered mentally or emotionally because of the employer’s intentional and outrageous conduct. Over the years, the courts have made it very difficult to prove IIED; it was not intended to extend to mere insults and indignations. Thus, courts have held that a failure to promote, unfair termination or even the use of foul and denigrating language did not rise to the level of intentional infliction of emotional distress. However, in a recent U.S. Supreme Court case, Gantt v. Security USA, Inc., 125 S.Ct. 51 (2004), the Supreme Court breathed new life into this ailing cause of action by applying it to an employer who failed to keep its employee safe. Dominique Gantt, a security guard for Security USA, was kidnapped from her job and raped by her ex-boyfriend. Gantt had informed her employer, a private security company, that she had secured a protective order forbidding her ex-boyfriend from coming into contact with her. She asked her supervisor not to assign her to remote locations, given the alleged violent actions of her ex-boyfriend. Instead of complying with the safety requests of Gantt, the supervisor ignored Gantt’s concerns and sought to bring the couple back together. The supervisor assigned Gantt to a remote location, then permitted the ex-boyfriend access by revealing where Gantt was stationed. When the ex-boyfriend arrived at Gantt’s station, he chased her with a gun, kidnapped her from the premises and raped her for several hours. When she was released to return to work, Gantt complained to the company about her supervisor’s conduct, saying that her supervisor bore partial responsibility for Gantt’s assault. The company, however, took no action in response to Gantt’s complaints. In fact, the company allowed the supervisor to remain in a supervisory position, and even required Gantt to continue to report to her after Gantt returned to work following the assault. Gantt sued her employer on several causes of action, including IIED. At trial, the supervisor testified that she knew Gantt’s boyfriend had been abusive, she knew Gantt was afraid of him and she knew of the court orders protecting Gantt from him. Nevertheless, the supervisor believed it was important that Gantt talk to her ex-boyfriend regardless of the emotional distress Gantt might suffer as a result. The Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of Gantt’s constitutional claims, but upheld her right to bring a claim for IIED. The Court found that the company (through the actions of Gantt’s supervisor), intentionally assigned her to a post where she knew Gantt would be in fear, refused to allow her to leave the post and allowed Gantt’s attacker access to the post. The Court found these actions caused a significant level of emotional distress, above and beyond the distress caused by the attack itself. In fact, the Court likened the supervisor’s intentional conduct to that of aiding and abetting the attacker. Moreover, because the Court found the company’s conduct to be intentional, the company could not rely on the State Worker’s Compensation Act to dismiss Gantt’s claims. In many states, money damages for a claim of IIED may not be capped, leaving the employer potentially liable for millions of dollars in damages. This case highlights three important points for employers: � The conduct of supervisors can be imputed to the employer. Therefore, employers must provide training regarding company policies and practices to all supervisors who manage employees. � Companies should develop protocols or policies which detail how to respond to workplace violence or safety issues; supervisors should know exactly what to do (even if they are just directed to contact human resources) when an employee brings a protective order, etc. to the company’s attention. � Bad facts create bad law; sometimes a sincere apology and minor corrective actions can go a long way toward avoiding costly litigation.

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