California Court Says Plaintiff’s IIED Claim is Barred by Exclusivity

A California appellate court has sustained a demurrer to a complaint alleging, among other things, intentional infliction of emotional distress filed by a former employee of a car dealership against various coworkers, supervisors, and the owner of the dealership on the grounds that the claim was barred by the exclusive remedy provisions of the California Workers’ Compensation Act [see Yau v. Santa Margarita Ford, Inc., 229 Cal. App. 4th 144, 2014 Cal. App. LEXIS 772 (Aug. 26, 2014)]. The plaintiff contended that he had been fired after complaining to the employer’s management about fraudulent warranty repair claims being submitted to Ford Motor Company. He filed a civil action for wrongful termination against the employer and an IIED claim against the individual defendants, claiming the latter were involved in the warranty fraud and that they caused plaintiff to suffer emotional distress after he complained about their nefarious activity. He claimed the actions of the employer and individual defendants contravened a fundamental public policy.

The appellate court cited Miklosy v. Regents of Univ. of Cal. (2008) 44 Cal.4th 876, 188 P.3d 629, 80 Cal. Rptr. 3d 690, in which the state supreme court held that even severe emotional distress arising from outrageous conduct that occurred at the worksite, in the normal course of the employer-employee relationship is the type of injury that falls within the exclusive province of workers’ compensation. The appellate court indicated that the trial court accordingly did not err by sustaining the demurrer as to the cause of action.

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