Unfortunately, lots of people are abused at work. Most of the time, there's no case. The law simply does not permit people to sue their bosses just because they're mean, and that makes sense.
But every once in awhile, the abuse is so severe and outrageous, that it constitutes a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress.
It's not often that these claims are recognized, but just recently one employee claimed victory in Rothwell v. Nine Miles School District , a case that truly meets the definition of outrageous.
Here's what happened in the case.
Debbie Rothwell was employed as a custodian for Nine Miles Falls School District for eight years. Her latest assignment was at Lakeside High School near Spokane.
One day Rothwell was called and asked to report to her shift early. When she arrived, she found out that a student had committed suicide in the main entrance of the high school by shooting himself in the head.
Rothwell was ordered by the Superintendent to clean up the mess. When she heard the name of the suicide victim, whom she knew personally, she became extremely upset and left for 30 minutes to compose herself.
She came back and was then ordered to go through classrooms to look for bombs. The school principal accompanied her.
After she finished the bomb search, she was ordered again to clean up the suicide scene. In the midst of it, she found a book bag. Not knowing it belonged to the victim, she began removing its contents but was then told by the police to to drop the bag and go home.
When Rothwell returned, she watched the bomb squad detonate a pipe from the book bag she had picked up and dropped earlier. She also learned that another bomb had been detonated on the football field while she was at home. Understandably, these events shocked and frightened her.
Rothwell remained at the scene and cleaned all night long. She was told to "make it look as if nothing had happened at the school."
According to the opinion in the case:
At approximately 2:00 a.m., Ms Rothwell resumed cleaning the suicide scene inside the school. Ms. Rothwell complied with Superinendent Green's directions to clean and dump everything at the scene, which included needles, plastic gloves, brain matter, bone bits, and blood.
She finished cleaning at approximately 4:15 a.m. By that time, she was emotionally distraught and physically ill.
For several days thereafter, students and others brought candles and cards to the scene of the suicide. Ms. Rothwell was ordered to clean up those items each night, which was extremely emotionally disturbing to her.
As a result of these events, Rothwell became sick from post traumatic stress disorder ("PTSD"). She filed a lawsuit against Nine Miles School District and the Superintendent for intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, claiming that she "suffered physical and emotional distress as a proximate result " of the District's and Superintendent's actions.
The District filed a motion asking the trial court to throw out the case on the grounds that it was barred by Washington's workers' compensation statute.Continue Reading...