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Company Not Liable for Executive’s Job Stress

A longtime accounting executive of our client began experiencing severe emotional distress following certain managerial and SEC reporting requirement changes. Ultimately, the stress caused the executive to leave active employment and seek medical treatment. He applied for and received long-term disability and Social Security disability benefits relating to his medical condition. He then sued in federal court in Georgia, alleging discrimination and harassment on the basis of age and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Specifically, the executive claimed that he was demoted and subjected to numerous instances of harassment based on his age and that the Company’s actions towards him were “outrageous” and designed to intentionally cause the emotional distress he suffered.

We moved for summary judgment and our motion was granted. The court rejected the plaintiff’s demotion claim because the change in management was held not to be an adverse employment action within the meaning of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. With respect to the age-related harassment allegations, we established the affirmative defenses established by the United States Supreme Court in the Faragher and Ellerth cases which involved claims of sexual harassment. Finally, the court concluded that the company’s actions were not outrageous and that the executive’s emotional problems were in fact caused by normal workplace stressors. 


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