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In order to state a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, first, ordinarily a plaintiff must allege that a defendant intended to inflict severe mental or emotional distress. It is not enough that the defendant intentionally acted in a way that causes such distress. Second, a defendant's act must in fact cause a plaintiff severe mental or emotional distress. Third, a defendant's actions must consist of some extraordinary transgression of the bounds of socially tolerable conduct or the actions must exceed any reasonable limit of social toleration.
Plaintiff employee, an African-American man, alleged that his supervisor engaged in a continuing pattern of discrimination and retaliation against him by verbally and physically harassing him, causing him to miss work because of stress and use his paid sick leave. The trial court dismissed the plaintiff’s claims for intentional interference with an economic relationship and intentional infliction of emotional distress for failure to state claims, pursuant to Or. R. Civ. P. 21A(8). Plaintiff appealed.
Did the plaintiff’s complaint against defendants fail to state a claim of intentional interference with an economic relationship and intentional infliction of emotional distress?
No, with respect to the plaintiff’s intentional infliction of emotional distress claim. Yes, with respect to plaintiff’s intentional interference with an economic relationship claim.
On appeal, the court affirmed the dismissal of the employee's intentional interference with an economic relationship claim but reversed and remanded on his intentional infliction of emotional distress claim. The court held that the employee failed to plead the requisite inquiry to his economic relationship because he did not allege that the employer breached his employment contract or that the supervisor made his contractual obligations more onerous or prevented him from realizing the full benefit of his contract. However, the court found that the employee's allegations of a continuing pattern of racially motivated abuse were sufficient to allege that the supervisor had a specific intent to cause him severe emotional distress and that the supervisor's conduct constituted an extraordinary transgression of the bounds of socially tolerable conduct.