Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress Elements Texas
To recover for intentional infliction of emotional distress, a plaintiff must prove:
(1) the defendant acted intentionally or recklessly;
(2) the conduct was extreme and outrageous;
(3) the conduct caused the plaintiff severe emotional distress. See GTE Southwest, Inc. v. Bruce, 998 S.W.2d 605, 611 (Tex. 1999).
Conduct is extreme and outrageous if it goes beyond all bounds of decency and is atrocious and intolerable in a civilized society. See id.
Insensitivity, rudeness, and minor insults, indignities, threats, annoyances, and petty oppressions generally are not extreme and outrageous behavior. See id. at 612.
Whether a defendant's conduct was so outrageous and extreme as to constitute intentional infliction of emotional distress is a question of law for the trial court. See Wornick Co. v. Casas, 856 S.W.2d 732, 734 (Tex. 1993).
Intentional infliction of emotional distress claims arising out of the workplace are subject to strict review in Texas. See Bruce, 998 S.W.2d at 612.
Texas courts allow employers great latitude in supervising, criticizing, disciplining, and discharging employees. See id.
A claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress will not lie for ordinary employment disputes, even if the behavior is unpleasant or unfair. See Bruce, 998 S.W.2d at 613.
Conduct in the workplace that will give rise to such a claim "exists only in the most unusual of circumstances." Id.
Most workplace-related claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress fail. See Horton v. Montgomery Ward & Co., 827 S.W.2d 361, 369 (Tex. App.--San Antonio 1992, writ denied).
Falsely depicting in the community that an employee is a thief is not sufficiently outrageous conduct to support such a claim. See Diamond Shamrock Ref. & Mktg. Co. v. Mendez, 844 S.W.2d 198, 202 (Tex. 1992).
Throwing paper at an employee, frightening her with snake rattles, calling her obscene names, pilfering and vandalizing her belongings, ostracizing her, and mutilating her photograph on an employee bulletin board is not extreme and outrageous conduct as a matter of law. See Horton, 827 S.W.2d at 369-70;
Humphreys v. Medical Towers, Ltd., 893 F. Supp. 672, 681 (S.D. Tex. 1995), aff'd, 100 F.3d 952 (5th Cir. 1996) (not extreme and outrageous where defendant encouraged employees to be insubordinate to plaintiff, called plaintiff obscene names, told her she was incompetent, and treated her with blatant hostility);
Saucedo v. Rheem Mfg. Co., 974 S.W.2d 117, 124-25 (Tex. App.--San Antonio 1998, pet. denied) (supervisor swore at employee, called him obscene names, threatened to fire him, insulted him in front of others, blamed him for the supervisor's own mistakes, and harassed employee by paging and calling him at all hours; held not outrageous and extreme).
The few successful cases involve truly extreme behavior such as unwanted, repeated physical contact, death threats or threats to family members, or physically menacing and frightening behavior.
Bruce, 998 S.W.2d at 613-14 (supervisor lunged and charged at employees, made them believe he would hit them, verbally threatened and "terrorized" them, swore and made vulgar sexual innuendos, stood uncomfortably close and screamed and yelled, made them perform menial tasks, and "engaged in a pattern of grossly abusive, threatening, and degrading conduct" for over two years);
Stokes v. Puckett, 972 S.W.2d 921, 924-25 (Tex. App.--Beaumont 1998, pet. denied) (supervisor repeatedly touched plaintiffs sexually, made repeated sexual remarks and come-ons, swore at plaintiffs in front of coworkers, stared at plaintiff's breasts);
Gonzales v. Willis, 995 S.W.2d 729, 735-36 (Tex. App.--San Antonio 1999, no pet.) (graphic sexual advances, sending harassing messages through coworkers, repeated telephone calls, holding out job assistance in exchange for sexual favors).