Workers' Compensation

North Carolina: Bank Employee’s Tort Action for Failure to Provide Stress-Free Work Environment Fails

A North Carolina appellate court affirmed the dismissal—on exclusive remedy grounds—of a civil action filed by a former bank employee against her former employer and supervisor alleging that the defendants had failed to exercise reasonable care and provide her with a safe working environment free from mental stress or anxiety. The plaintiff further alleged that their failure to provide her with a stress-free work environment aggravated a pre-existing mental condition about which the defendants were aware. The plaintiff contended that her tort claim of negligent infliction of emotional distress was excepted from the exclusivity provision of the state’s Workers' Compensation Act because of the defendants' “egregious and extreme conduct.” The appellate court disagreed. The Court acknowledged that a narrow exception had been carved out of the exclusive remedy defense for so-called “Woodson” claims—those where the employer’s misconduct was “substantially certain” to lead to the employee's serious injury or death. The Court added that here, the plaintiff had alleged that she suffered mental injury because the defendants acted negligently in pressuring her to perform the duties associated with her position within the bank. Her complaint alleged no intentional conduct on the part of the defendants. Her sole remedy, if she had one, was within the workers’ compensation system.

Thomas A. Robinson, J.D., the Feature National Columnist for the LexisNexis Workers’ Compensation eNewsletter, is co-author of Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law (LexisNexis).

LexisNexis Online Subscribers: Citations below link to Lexis Advance.

See Jones v. Wells Fargo Co., 2018 N.C. App. LEXIS 736(Aug. 7, 2018)

See generally Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 103.04.

Source: Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, the nation’s leading authority on workers’ compensation law