Sousa v. Rocque
Allegations that supervisors failed to adequately address a worker's concerns about bullying, required that the worker take a psychiatric evaluation and failed to approve an accommodation may be insufficient to establish intentional infliction of emotional distress. In 1987, the then Department of Environmental Protection hired Bryan Sousa. In 2002, the department suspended Sousa, after he was involved in a physical confrontation with another worker, Jonathan Goldman. Sousa obtained a transfer to another office. In 2003, Sousa allegedly sent an e-mail to co-workers that stated in part, "Mobbing can often result in the death of the victim, either due to illness, accident or suicide . . . [and] workplace mobbing should be viewed as the last remaining legal means of committing homicide." In response, human resources required Sousa to undergo a fitness-for-duty evaluation. Sousa complained that supervisors were overly suspicious. He remained out of the office in October and November. In December 2003, Sousa wrote to the chief of financial and support services that although he had been cleared to return to work, he was concerned about his safety. Sousa took vacation and sick leave during December. Between January and April 30, 2004, Sousa worked only 30 days. An attorney investigated and found no evidence of workplace harassment. The department authorized the use of paid sick leave until September 23. A doctor found that Sousa was not fit for duty in November. The doctor found that Sousa was fit for duty in December. The department discharged Sousa in 2005 for unauthorized absences and abusive language. Sousa filed a complaint, alleging intentional infliction of emotional distress. To prevail, Sousa was required to prove that the conduct of the defendant supervisors was extreme and outrageous. The court found that the defendants investigated complaints about bullying, disciplined violent offenders and relocated Sousa away from a co-worker. The psychiatric exam was not unreasonable, because a doctor found that Sousa was not fit for duty. The decision to discharge Sousa, because he refused to return to work after receipt of medical clearance, was not extreme or outrageous. The court granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment.