Jessica Aram worked as a genetic counselor for Laboratory Corporation of America Holdings. She provided prenatal genetic counseling to patients at several clinics in Southern California, including followup care and counseling when a genetic test revealed abnormal results.
A dispute arose between Aram and LabCorp about the content of her clinical notes. The dispute was not resolved between them regarding the details provided in her documentation. . Her employment was terminated by LabCorp in October, 2011.
In 2014, Aram filed a civil complaint against her employer asserting causes of action for wrongful termination, retaliatory discharge,violation of whistleblower protections, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Aram alleged that respondents’ bullying and threats constituted the basis of her claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress.The employer moved for summary judgment or, in the alternative, summary adjudication.
After hearing argument and orally explaining its analysis of the evidence, the court granted the motion and dismissed her case.
In addition to ruling against her substantiative claims, the court also found that the employer’s actions did not “constitute extreme or outrageous conduct” to support the claim for intentional infliction for emotional distress, and the claim was “barred by the exclusivity provisions of the California Workers’ Compensation Act.”
The Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment in the unpublished case of Aram v. Esoterix Genetic Labs LLC .
On appeal, among other employment law related issues, Aram claims the trial court erred in concluding that her claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress was barred by the exclusivity provisions of the California Workers’ Compensation Act. The Court of Appeal disagreed.
The Court noted that when a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress is based on allegedly wrongful conduct that “occurred at the worksite, in the normal course of the employer-employee relationship” then “workers’ compensation is [a plaintiff’s] exclusive remedy for any injury that may have resulted.”
This is so even when the alleged emotional distress arose from conduct that would support whistleblower claims such as those alleged by Aram.
She would be required to show “extreme or outrageous conduct” to circumvent the exclusive remedy limitation.