South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Public Policy Violation Strengthens Claim for Tort of Outrage
Description

Court held that plaintiff had a possible claim for the tort of outrage for discrimination on the job and dismissal based on her joining the military. Such treatment would violate public policy, which gives strength to the claim.

Topic Torts
Key Words

Outrage; Emotional Distress; Military Service; Public Policy

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

Lees worked at Sea Breeze Health Care Center. She enlisted in the U.S. Air Force Reserves. She claims her supervisors were angry that she joined the Reserves because it would mean that she would miss work at times to attend basic training. She claims the supervisors told others she would be fired for missing work. Eventually Lees was fired. She claims it was in retaliation for joining the Reserves. She sued for the torts of outrage and emotional distress and for violating the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act which provides certain employment rights for those providing military service. Defendants moved to dismiss the suit.

Decision

Motion granted in part, denied in part. The claim of emotion distress is dismissed since it is the same as the claim of outrage under Alabama law. Lees has a claim of outrage that may proceed. When an employee complains that her discharge from employment violates public policy, especially when it was at the end of a long pattern of discrimination in violation of public policy, she may pursue a claim for the tort of outrage. The violation of public policy furnishes the needed “sound of fury” to accompany the termination.

Citation

Lees v. Sea Breeze Health Care Center, Inc., ---F.Supp.2d--- (2005 WL 1138381, S.D., Ala., 2005)

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