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Philadelphia Workplace Torts such as Fraudulent Inducement and Defamation

Intentional Torts in the Workplace

Your employer is prohibited from engaging in certain types of conduct that result in causing you harm. Generally known as workplace torts, these civil wrongs are committed within a work environment and can give rise to an employee’s cause of action against an employer, but cannot be categorized within the scope of wrongful termination, sexual harassment, and discrimination.

As an intentional wrong, a workplace tort can range from invasion of privacy, defamation, and fraudulent inducement, to assault and battery, public policy violations and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Employers can be held vicariously liable for torts committed by their employees within the course of their employment. Claims that arise out of work-related disputes or interactions or during employees’ performance of their job responsibilities are most likely to lead to employer liability.

Fraudulent Inducement or Fraudulent Misrepresentation

If an employer knowingly misrepresented an aspect of an employee’s job or employment circumstances, and the employee took action to the detriment of the employee’s employment in reliance on that misrepresentation, the employee may have a claim for fraudulent inducement. Similarly, a person may have a claim against his employer if the employer convinces him to quit his job and relocate and then fires the employee a short time later.

Defamation

Defamation involves the unprivileged publication of false and injurious information to one or more third parties. There are two types of defamation: libel, which is the written publication of defamatory statements, and slander, which is the oral publication of defamatory statements.

Frequently, employees assert defamation claims when they believe their employer published false information about them to other employees or to a prospective employer. These claims often arise when an employer discusses an employee’s performance or the reasons for an employee’s termination. Employees may also bring defamation claims in response to an employer’s disclosure of information concerning its investigation into harassment, theft or other alleged wrongdoing.

Privacy Torts

The right to privacy has given rise to a number of different tort causes of action that may protect employees in the workplace. These claims generally fall into two categories. The first is designed to safeguard an individual’s interests in preventing the publication of confidential information, i.e. an employer’s unjustified disclosure of an employee’s medical or personnel records. The second type of claim is designed to protect an individual from being observed or intruded upon while conducting personal activities. Often referred to as “intrusion upon seclusion,” this type of privacy claim applies to both an individual’s body and personal space or concerns.

Assault and Battery

Although the torts of assault and battery often occur in conjunction with one another, they are separate legal claims. A claim of battery involves intentional conduct that constitutes a “harmful or offensive contact with a person.” A claim of assault arises from conduct that is intended to and has the effect of exciting an immediate apprehension of a harmful or offensive contact.

Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

A claim for assault requires apprehension of an immediate injury, but a person who has been threatened and suffers apprehension of a future injury may be able to bring a successful claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. An employer may be subject to liability for intentional infliction of emotional distress where its conduct intentionally or recklessly causes an employee to experience severe emotional suffering. Not surprisingly, employees who experience harassment, retaliation or other conduct that violates federal, state or local anti-discrimination laws often assert emotional distress claims. However, such a claim also can be asserted as a separate lawsuit based on intolerable working conditions, even if a claim is not brought under the anti-discrimination laws.

Public Policy Claim

Employers often face tort claims by employees who contend that they were wrongfully discharged in violation of a fundamental public policy. Typically, these claims involve allegations that the employee were terminated for refusing to violate the law, for performing a statutory obligation, for exercising a statutory right or for reporting an alleged violation of a statute.

A small number of states have enacted broad-based workers’ compensation laws that provide the exclusive relief for all injuries to employees arising in the workplace, including both unintentional and intentional torts. In these jurisdictions, including Pennsylvania, employees may be precluded from bringing a tort cause of action for their workplace injuries and must instead rely exclusively on the more limited remedies available through the workers’ compensation system. Most states allow at least some form of tort recovery for an employee’s workplace injuries; however, the range of permissible tort claims can vary considerably from state to state. In some jurisdictions, including New Jersey, employees can escape the confines of the workers’ compensation system if they can show that their employer engaged in conduct that it knew was “substantially certain” to cause the employee’s injury.

Conveniently located in Philadelphia, a short drive from the South Jersey towns of Cherry Hill, Camden and Atlantic City, the Pennsylvania employment attorneys of Sidney L. Gold and Associates are available to discuss your rights and remedies in connection with intentional workplace torts suffered at the hands of your employer. Call our office today at 215-569-1999 to schedule an appointment with a qualified New Jersey employment lawyer or contact us online.

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