The Arizona Supreme Court ruled that an employee may independently recover from her employer for intentional infliction of emotional distress.
An employee may recover independently damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress against their employer.
Shortly after working for Revlon Inc. (Defendant), Leta Fay Ford (Plaintiff) was sexually harassed by a new employee hired by defendant named Karl Braun who was her new supervisor, at a business dinner meeting. Braun made sexual advances through inappropriate comments and even sexually touched Ford. After the picnic, Ford met with a personnel manager to discuss the sexual advances by her new supervisor. Ford even requested to be transferred from this office. During this incident, Ford developed high blood pressure, a nervous tick, chest pains, and difficulty breathing. After nine months, the company finally decided to monitor the supervisor and it wasn’t until a year later that Braun was issued a censure. Ford as a result of this lenient punishment attempted to commit suicide. Then, Revlon proceeded to fire Braun. Ford brought suit against both Braun and Revlon where she was successful in her claims but found Revlon guilty of Intentional Infliction of Emotional distress where Braun was not found guilty. Revlon appealed and the judgment was reversed. The Arizona Supreme Court granted review.
Whether an employee can recover damages from an employer for an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim.
Yes. The Court emphasizes that when a employer is independently negligent form an employee’s actions then the employer may be held liable separately. The court reasoned that Revlon’s failure to properly investigate the claims brought forth by Ford was negligent. The Court first determined that Revlon’s conduct was at least reckless due to its knowledge of the sexual harassment by Braun and Revlon’s failure to properly investigate the matter.
The court stressed the importance of the employer’s act of negligence being separate from the employee’s conduct in order for Ford to win an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim against Revlon.