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Labor & Employment – Termination – Negligence Claim – Workers’ Compensation Act – Exclusivity Provision

Where plaintiff is seeking damages for non-physical injuries including “pain and suffering, mental and emotional distress, shock and humiliation, and stress and anxiety” arising out of her termination from defendant’s employ, she is alleging psychological harm. Although she argues that her termination did not occur in an unusual or extraordinary manner so as to bring it within the purview of the Workers’ Compensation Act’s exclusivity provision, her allegations do not support her argument that her termination was “carried out in a relatively ordinary manner.”

The court grants defendant’s partial motion to dismiss plaintiff’s negligence claim.

Plaintiff alleges she suffered non-physical injuries as a result of a confrontation with her supervisor. Her complaint says, “Plaintiff was . . . often reminded that she was an outsider with respect to Defendant’s culture and was frequently told “This is Hammond,” implying that Defendant was entitled to play by a separate set of rules and norms than public schools or comparative industries. . . . Leaphart unnecessarily confronted Plaintiff . . . . Leaphart condescendingly retorted, “This is Hammond.” Leaphart also accused Plaintiff of lying . . . . Leaphart, in the presence of another employee, terminated Plaintiff at [a] meeting.”

When plaintiff asked why she was being terminated, she was told that she was a “poor fit” and that she “could not grasp the concept of private schools.”

Moreover, plaintiff alleges that “Defendant was grossly negligent in supervising Candice Leaphart,” the confrontational supervisor and the school’s chief operations officer, “allowing her to behave in an arbitrary, capricious, and retaliatory manner toward Plaintiff.”

Plaintiff cannot allege the above facts while maintaining that the conditions of her employment and termination were not “extraordinary and unusual.” The non-physical injuries plaintiff complained about resulted from extraordinary and unusual events and circumstances that occurred during the course of and as a result of her employment.

The magistrate judge correctly found that plaintiff’s negligence claim is barred by the exclusivity provision of the Workers’ Compensation Act.

Even if plaintiff amended her complaint to strike her compensable damages and non-termination allegations, her termination would still be “extraordinary and unusual,” so the Workers’ Compensation Act would still bar her negligence claims.

Motion granted.

Kerr v. Hammond School (Lawyers Weekly No. 002-081-18, 14 pp.) (Joseph Anderson Jr., J.) 3:17-cv-03109; Elizabeth Marie Bowen, James Lewis Cromer and James Paul Porter for plaintiff; Amy Yager Jenkins and Jonathan Gregory Lane for defendant. D.S.C.

 


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