Sexual Harassment- Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress Supported By Egregious Conduct

Courts are very reluctant to recognize an employee’s intentional infliction of emotional distress claim against an employer. However, where the facts are egregious enough, these claims can proceed to trial. In Graudins v. Retro Fitness, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 15745 (E. D. Pa. February 5, 2013) (Pratter, J.),the Plaintiff was employed at Defendant’s Retro Fitness health club and exposed to inappropriate physical touching, sexual innuendo and propositions, pornography and a sexually assault by an employee who continued to be employed at Retro Fitness after the assault. The Plaintiff filed several causes of action, including an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim against the employer.

While the court ruled that several claims against individual defendants were not recognized by the law and the Plaintiff’s state-law claims under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA) were time barred because an administrative complaint was not filed within 180 days of the alleged acts of discrimination, Graudins is a rare case where the Court recognizes a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress against the employer. In Graudins, the Court found that Pennsylvania law recognizes a claim where there is outrageous conduct in the employment context such as sexual harassment and other retaliatory behavior against an employee. See Capriotti v. Chivukula, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 48263, at *9 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 14, 2005), quoting, Cox v. Keystone Carbon Co.,, 861 F.2d 390, 395-96 (3d Cir. 1988), Bowersox v. P. H. Glatfelter Co., 677 F. Supp. 307, 308, 311-12 (M.D. Pa. 1988) (denying employer’s motion to dismiss an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim because the plaintiff alleged that her supervisor sexually harassed her and subjected her to retaliation).

In Graudins, the court found that the sexual harassment and retaliation evidence was severe and sufficiently outrageous enough for the intentional infliction of emotional distress case to proceed to trial. In so doing, the court recognized that the PHRA does not preempt a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress where the facts that give rise to a statutory claim would also independently support a common law claim. See Releford v. Pa. State Univ., 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 25546, at *23 (M.D. Pa. Mar. 14, 2011), Schweitzer v. Rockwell Int’l, 402 Pa. Super. 34, 586 A.2d 383, 389 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1990). The Court also found that worker’s compensation law preemption does not apply where an employee’s injury is caused by an act of a third person intended to injure the employee because of reasons personal to him and not directed against him as an employee or because of his employment. See 77 Pa. Cons. Stat. §411(1)).

Ultimately, in Graudins, the Court held that the intentional infliction of emotional distress, Title VII claims and state-law retaliation claims against employer can proceed to trial.

For more information on Sexual Harassment Claims and Abramson Employment Law see


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Filed under Hostile Work Environment, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, Sex / Gender Discrimination, Sexual Harassment

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