Grasso v. Connecticut Hospice, Inc.
A vindictive conspiracy to terminate a plaintiff's employment, even if true, would not necessarily be sufficient to state a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Susane Grasso, an employee of Connecticut Hospice, Inc., claimed that in retaliation for filing complaints with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration concerning defective chairs, her work environment became hostile, she was subjected to relentless pressure to quit her job and her work duties changed. Following the administration's reasonable cause finding, Hospice and Grasso entered into a settlement agreement. Grasso claimed that Hospice breached the agreement. She filed a six count complaint in the Superior Court alleging, inter alia, a violation of the state whistleblower statute, C.G.S. §31-51m, breach of the settlement agreement and employee handbook and emotional distress claims. The trial court granted summary judgment to the defendants, Hospice and various individuals, on all counts and counterclaims. Grasso appealed raising multiple claims. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment. No genuine issue of material fact existed regarding whether Hospice breached the settlement agreement as claimed. Examining a contested clause in context, the parties' intent was that the agreement would neither confer any at-will employment rights that did not exist prior to the agreement, nor remove any such rights. The trial court properly determined that the agreement did not dictate that every Hospice employee was entitled to the exact same treatment with regard to duties, office access or accommodations. The trial court also properly ruled that the plaintiff could not prevail on her negligent infliction of emotional distress claim based on allegations that her employment was constructively terminated due to events occurring during her employment. The events that occurred, regardless of their impact on her decision to resign, did not satisfy the termination requirement from the 2002 Connecticut Supreme Court decision in Perodeau v. Hartford. For the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim, the trial court correctly held that there was no genuine issue of material fact that the individual defendants' actions were not extreme and outrageous. The plaintiff claimed that these defendants conspired to engage in a pattern of harassment and infliction of emotional distress that put her under relentless and severe pressure to quit. This included denying her supplies to perform her job and forced excessive commuting.