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To state an action for intentional infliction of emotional distress, the complaint must be specific, and detailed beyond what is normally considered permissible in pleading a tort action. A plaintiff must allege some facts which, if true, would support the conclusion that the emotional distress actually suffered as a proximate result of the defendant's conduct was severe. Merely characterizing emotional distress as severe is not sufficient.
Plaintiffs filed the instant action seeking recovery against their employer, defendant Commonwealth Edison Company, on theories of "Retaliatory Demotion," "Retaliatory Constructive Discharge," and "Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress." According to the plaintiffs, they were demoted after having made complaints concerning safety issues and statutory violations at Commonwealth Edison’s nuclear power station in Zion, Illinois. In their complaint, the plaintiffs alleged that they each complained to Commonwealth Edison's management and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission concerning conditions at the Zion facility and that five of them testified before the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in support of their complaints. According to the complaint, each of the plaintiffs was thereafter transferred to another facility and demoted, and each suffered a loss of pay and "a significant deterioration in the terms, conditions, privileges and environment of" his or her employment. Commonwealth Edison filed a section 2-615 motion to dismiss all counts of the plaintiffs' complaint, arguing that Illinois did not recognize causes of action for retaliatory demotion or constructive retaliatory discharge. It further argued that, as to the claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress, the plaintiffs had failed to plead any facts in support of the conclusion that its actions were "extreme and outrageous" or that its alleged conduct caused them to suffer "severe emotional distress.” The trial court granted the motion, thereby dismissing all of the plaintiffs’ claims. The present appeal followed.
Did the trial court err in dismissing plaintiff employees’ complaint?
The court affirmed the dismissal of plaintiff employees’ complaint, and agreed with defendant employer that Illinois did not recognize causes of action for retaliatory demotion or constructive retaliatory discharge. The court found that, in the absence of plaintiffs' allegations that they were actually terminated from employment with defendant, the complaint did not state cognizable causes of action on retaliatory theories. The court further noted that, contrary to plaintiffs' contention, it did not have the authority to overrule the state Supreme Court's decision not to recognize such causes of action. The court then found that plaintiffs had failed to plead any facts in support of the conclusion that defendant's actions were "extreme and outrageous" or that defendant's alleged conduct caused plaintiffs to suffer "severe emotional distress." The court affirmed and found that plaintiffs had not sufficiently alleged facts to satisfy the requirements of a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, noting that courts had declined to find an employer's retaliatory conduct sufficiently extreme or outrageous as to give rise to the emotional distress claim.