United States District Court, D. New Jersey, Camden Vicinage
October 17, 2005.
LESLIE MATOS, Plaintiff,
THE PNC FINANCIAL SERVICES GROUP, et al., Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROBERT KUGLER, Magistrate Judge
This matter comes before the court on motion by Defendant The
PNC Financial Services Group for summary judgment of Plaintiff
Leslie Matos's claims for religious discrimination. For the
reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion for summary judgment
will be denied in part and granted in part.
Plaintiff Leslie Matos ("Matos") has been an ardent Jehovah's
Witness since she was baptized in 1993. Every July she attends an
annual religious convention with approximately 20,000 other
Jehovah Witnesses. The assembly takes place from Friday to
Sunday, but her entire congregation travels to the site the
Thursday prior to assist with preparation. In 2002, Matos'
employer, Defendant PNC Financial Services Group ("Defendant" or the "Bank"), did not permit her to take Thursday and Friday off
of work to attend the assembly, and Matos quit her job rather
than miss the event. Matos alleges that the Bank's refusal to
approve her absence was a failure to accommodate her religious
beliefs as required by Title VII. Matos also alleges disparate
treatment, constructive discharge, a hostile work environment,
and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Defendant now
moves for summary judgment on all claims.
Defendant hired Matos as part-time teller on October 30, 1998,
and she informed the Bank of her religious beliefs soon
thereafter. Because of the proximity of Halloween, the branch,
including Matos' workstation, was decorated for the holiday.
Matos explained that her religion did not permit such decorations
and she moved them to another teller's station. Although she had
to repeat her explanation and request every holiday, Matos does
not contend that the Bank was hostile to the removal of
Matos' first significant conflict with the Bank arising out of
her religious beliefs occurred in July 1999 when she asked
manager Marion Sokol ("Sokol") for two days off of work so that
she could attend the Jehovah's Witness convention. Because Matos
was a part-time employee and had no vacation days, she requested
the days off without pay. After initially denying the request,
Sokol permitted Matos to take time off, but required that she take the entire week off, instead of only two days. By taking the
full week off without pay, Matos was able to attend the assembly.
The issue of the convention did not arise again until 2002. In
2000, Matos was on disability leave and consequently did not need
to request days off to attend the assembly. In 2001 the assembly
coincided with the death of Matos' father, and she was able to go
to the convention during the time she took off work to be with
her family. Matos went to Puerto Rico to attend the funeral and
then returned in time to go to the convention without the Bank's
knowledge before she resumed work the following Monday.
In the year at issue, Matos initially approached the Bank in
January about her need to take two days off for the assembly in
July. However, the Bank issued vacation time in order of
seniority. A calendar was passed from employee to employee,
beginning with the individual who had been at the bank the
longest. Matos' supervisor informed her that she would have to
wait until she received the calendar to see if those days were
By the time Matos received the calendar, another employee had
reserved the week of the assembly. Matos informed her supervisors
of the conflict. Per their instructions, Matos asked the other
employee if she would be willing to change vacation dates;
however, the employee's vacation was fixed and could not be altered. Because Matos had to select a vacation week before
passing the calendar on to the next employee, she reserved the
week of May 27. She also took off June 20, 21, and the week of
June 24 to attend the anniversary of her father's funeral in
Puerto Rico. Consequently, by the time of the assembly in July,
Matos had used all of her vacation and all but one of her paid
occasional absence days. The record suggests that Matos believed
that she had one paid occasional absence day and one "floating"
day remaining to use for the convention, but it is unclear
whether these days were actually available.
Additionally, at or around this time, Sokol informed Matos that
the branch was instituting a new policy prohibiting more than one
employee from being absent at one time. Prior to 2002, the Bank
permitted two employees to take off the same day as long as one
of the individuals was a teller and the other was a platform
worker. While Sokol later acknowledged that the Bank would make
exceptions to the new rule for reasonable requests, allowing more
than one employee to be absent, it appears that Sokol did not
inform Matos of such a possibility.
Matos raised the issue of the assembly with the Bank again in
July. Sokol refused to grant her request for time off and asked
Matos, "What is more important to you, your job or God?" Dawn
Stewart, Matos' immediate supervisor, told her that if she took
those days off without permission, Sokol would fire her for insubordination. Matos was afraid that if she was fired, she
would be escorted from the building by a security officer in a
manner that would be extremely humiliating and disparaging to her
religion. Believing that she would be fired if she went to the
assembly, Matos turned in a letter of resignation that day.
In addition to the events of 2002, Matos alleges that the Bank
frequently required her to stay late on Friday evenings even
though her coworkers were allowed to leave. If the branch's
accounts were not settled by the end of the work day on Friday,
several tellers would be required to remain at work until the
accounts were fully settled. However, Matos' fellow tellers were
permitted to leave if they gave a reason such as having to tend
to their children or having plans that required them to be
elsewhere. However, the Bank did not permit Matos to leave, even
though her supervisors knew that she had religious meetings on
Friday evenings. Consequently, Matos alleges, on approximately
three Fridays a month, she was the only teller remaining by the
time the bank was settled. As a result, she was often late to her
II. Standard of Review
Summary judgment is appropriate where the Court is satisfied
that "there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that
the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law."
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 330 (1986). A genuine issue of material fact exists when "the
evidence is such that a reasonable jury could find for the
nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).
The burden of establishing the nonexistence of a "genuine
issue" is on the party moving for summary judgment. Celotex,
477 U.S. at 330. The moving party may satisfy this burden by
either (1) submitting affirmative evidence that negates an
essential element of the nonmoving party's claim; or (2)
demonstrating to the Court that the nonmoving party's evidence is
insufficient to establish an essential element of the nonmoving
party's case. Id. at 331. If the moving party has not fully
discharged its initial burden, its motion for summary judgment
must be denied. Id. at 332. If the moving party satisfies its
initial burden, the nonmoving party "must set forth specific
facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial."
A. Accommodation Claim
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires employers to
reasonably accommodate their employees' religious beliefs and
practices as long as the accommodation will not create "undue
hardship."*fn1 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e2(a)(1), 2000e(j) (1982);
Shelton v. University of Med. & Dentistry of New Jersey, 223 F.3d 220, 224
(3d Cir. 2000). To prevail on a claim of failure to
accommodation, an employee must demonstrate: (1) she holds a
sincere religious belief that conflicts with a job requirement;
(2) she informed her employer of the conflict; and (3) she was
disciplined for failing to comply with the conflicting
requirement. Shelton, 223 F.3d at 224 (quoting Protos v.
Volkswagen of Am., Inc., 797 F.2d 129, 133-34 (3d Cir. 1986)).
Defendant argues that Matos failed to establish either the
first or the third prongs of the prima facie case. Specifically,
Defendant suggests that Matos did not provide sufficient evidence
to show that attending the assembly was a sincere religious
belief and that, because she quit her job, Matos was never
disciplined for attending the assembly. Because Matos has raised
material questions of fact as to both of these issues,
Defendant's motion for summary judgment on Matos' accommodation
claim will be denied.
1. Sincere Religious Belief
For the purposes of Title VII, "[t]he term `religion' includes
all aspects of religious observance and practice, as well as belief, unless an employer demonstrates that he is unable
to reasonably accommodate an employee's . . . religious
observance or practice without undue hardship on the conduct of
the employer's business." Shelton, 223 F.3d at 224 n. 5
(quoting § 2000e(j)). Protos v. Volkswagen of Am., Inc.,
797 F.2d 129, 133 (3d Cir. 1986) (quoting Trans World Airlines, Inc.
v. Hardison, 432 U.S. 63, 74 (1977)). In protecting "all
aspects" of observance, practice, and belief, Title VII covers a
wide range of religious activities. § 2000e(j) (emphasis added).
To ascertain whether an activity qualifies as the kind of
religious belief that merits accommodation, courts look to
"whether the beliefs professed by a [claimant] are sincerely held
and whether they are, in his own scheme of things, religious."
Bailey v. Associated Press, 2003 WL 22232967 *7 (S.D.N.Y. 2003)
(quoting Patrick v. LeFevre, 745 F.2d 153, 157 (2d Cir. 1984)).
As long as a belief is bona fide, an employer must accommodate it
unless accommodation would cause undue hardship.
Naturally, the determination of sincerity is a subjective
inquiry, requiring examination of "`an individual's inward
attitudes towards a particular belief system' in which a person's
claim `that his belief is an essential part of a religious faith
must be given great weight.'" Id. ("[C]ourts have jettisoned
the objective, content-based approach previously employed to
define religious belief") (citing Davis v. Beason, 133 U.S. 333
(1890); Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145 (1879)). Summary
judgment is seldom appropriate in subjective inquiries and, in
religious accommodation cases such as this, should be granted
only where "[o]n the record before the Court, a reasonable jury
could only conclude that [the employee's] religious assertion was
not bona fide."*fn2 Hussein v. The Waldorf-Astoria,
134 F. Supp. 2d 591, 597 (S.D.N.Y. 2001).
Because Matos presented sufficient evidence indicating that her
religious belief was bona fide, summary judgment must be denied.
Defendant does not dispute the sincerity of Matos' religious
beliefs; rather, Defendant argues that Matos failed to establish that the assembly was a requirement of the Jehovah's
Witness religion. However, for the purposes of a Title VII
accommodation claim, Matos must demonstrate only that she had a
bona fide religious belief and that attending the convention was
an aspect "of religious observance [or] practice" of this belief.
The record is replete with demonstrations of Matos' religious
devotedness, and suggests that Matos sincerely considered the
convention a religious obligation. She attended the assembly
every year for at least the past four years, along with every
other member of her congregation. As demonstrated by the case at
hand, she even quit her job, rather than miss the event. Since
Matos' testimony of her own beliefs, supplemented by the factual
record, must be given "great weight," she has satisfied her
burden of demonstrating that the assembly was a bona fide
religious practice for the purposes of summary judgment.
2. Discipline for failure to comply
Defendant contends that because Matos resigned, she was not
disciplined and therefore cannot satisfy the third factor of her
accommodation claim. However, a showing of constructive discharge
constitutes an adverse employment action under Title VII.
Connors v. Chrysler Financial Corp., 160 F.3d 971, 973-74 (3d
Cir. 1998); Zezulewicz v. Port Authority of Allegheny County,
290 F. Supp. 2d 583 (W.D. Pa. 2003). Because there exists a material question of
fact as to whether Matos was constructively discharged,
Defendant's motion for summary judgment on Matos' accommodation
claim will be denied.
Defendant argues that Matos cannot bring a constructive
discharge claim because the employment conditions she experienced
were not "so intolerable that a reasonable person in the
employee's position would have felt compelled to resign."
Pennsylvania State Police v. Suders, 124 S. Ct. 2342, 2345
(2004). However, an employee can also establish a claim for
constructive discharge when "an employer acts in a manner so as
to have communicated to a reasonable employee that she will be
terminated, and the plaintiff employee resigns." E.E.O.C. v.
University of Chicago Hospitals, 276 F.3d 326, 331-32 (7th Cir.
2002); Lopez v. S.B. Thomas, Inc., 831 F.2d 1184, 1188 (2nd
Cir. 1987) (holding that a trier of fact could reasonably find
constructive discharge from a statement to employee that he would
be fired at end of his probationary period).
An employer's threat to fire an employee can therefore
constitute a constructive discharge. See e.g., Duffy v. Paper
Magic Group, Inc., 265 F.3d 163, 168 (3d Cir. 2001) (holding
that there was no grounds for a finding of constructive discharge
because "Paper Magic never threatened to fire Duffy [or]
encouraged her to resign from her position"); Clowes v.
Allegheny Valley Hosp., 991 F.2d 1159, 1161 (3d Cir. 1993)
(characterizing a threat of discharge as a factor "commonly cited
by employees who claim to have been constructively discharged.").
A threat to fire amounts to constructive discharge where a
reasonable employee in the same circumstances would have believed
she would be fired and would have resigned. Clowes v. Allegheny
Valley Hosp., 991 F.2d 1159, 1161 (3d Cir. 1993) ("We employ an
objective test in determining whether an employee was
constructively discharged from employment: whether `the conduct
complained of would have the foreseeable result that . . . a
reasonable person in the employee's shoes would resign.'")
(quoting Gray v. York Newspapers, Inc., 957 F.2d 1070, 1079 (3d
Defendant contends that because Matos was never threatened by
anyone who had authority to terminate her employment, she could
not have been constructively discharged. However, constructive
discharge does not depend on whether Matos would actually have
been fired; rather, the inquiry lies in the reasonableness of her
belief that she would be fired. Matos' immediate supervisor, Dawn
Stewart, told her that she would be fired if she went to the
convention, and Sokol told Matos that she must choose between her
work or her God. A jury could reasonably construe either of these
statements to be a threat of discharge. Furthermore, an action taken by an employer, knowing that it
will result in an employee's resignation can also constitute
constructive discharge. In Schafer v. Board of Public Education
of the School District of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,
903 F.2d 243, 250 (3d Cir. 1990), a case resembling that presently before
the court, the plaintiff applied for a one year leave and
informed his employer that he would be forced to resign in the
event the request was denied. The Court held that the employer's
denial of the request was sufficient to create a question of fact
as to whether Schafer was constructively discharged. See
Gray, 957 F.2d at 1082 ("In Schafer it certainly was not
unreasonable to infer that the school board had intended to
terminate the plaintiff since the plaintiff had stated that he
would be forced to resign if the board would not grant him leave
and, subsequently, that is exactly what the board did.").
A reasonable jury could find that Sokol knew Matos would resign
if she was not given time off to attend the convention. Just as
the employer in Schafer constructively discharged the plaintiff
employee by refusing to grant his request for a year leave in
spite of knowing that he would be forced to resign, a jury could
find that the Bank constructively discharged Matos if the Bank
knew that Matos would resign if her request was denied.
Ultimately, the question of whether it was reasonable for Matos
to resign under the circumstances is a question of fact. Schafer, 903 F.2d 243, 250 ("On appeal, we cannot make the
fact-finding required to determine whether it was reasonable for
Schafer to resign."). Because, Matos has provided sufficient
evidence to raise a material question of fact as to whether she
was constructively discharged, Defendant's motion for summary
judgment on her accommodation claim must be denied.
B. Disparate Treatment Claim
Analysis of a disparate treatment claim for religious
discrimination mirrors the framework for claims of racial
discrimination articulated in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green,
411 U.S. 792, 803-05 (1973). Abramson v. William Paterson
College of New Jersey, 260 F.3d 265, 281-82 (3d Cir. 2001). To
establish a prima facie case, the plaintiff must demonstrate: (1)
she is a member of a protected class; (2) she was qualified for
the job and nonetheless suffered an adverse employment action;
and (3) nonmembers of the protected class were treated more
favorably. Id. (citing Goosby v. Johnson & Johnson Med.,
Inc., 228 F.3d 313, 318-19 (3d Cir. 2000). Once the plaintiff
has demonstrated the three factors, the burden shifts to the
employer to proffer a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for
the adverse employment decision. Abramson, 260 F.3d at 281-82.
The plaintiff must then demonstrate that the proffered reason was
pretextual. Id. (citing Goosby, 228 F.3d at 319).*fn3
1. Prima Facie Disparate Treatment Claim
To establish a prima facie case sufficient to overcome
Defendant's motion for summary judgment, Matos need only
demonstrate that a material question of fact exists as to the
presence of each factor. Abramson, 260 F.3d 265. Matos has
presented adequate evidence to satisfy this burden. As a
Jehovah's Witness, Matos qualifies as a member of a protected
class under Title VII. Abramson, 260 F.3d at 282 ("Religion is
a protected category."). Furthermore, because Matos may have been
constructive discharged, as discussed above, there is a question
of material fact as to whether Matos has experienced an adverse
Defendant contends that Matos does not satisfy the last factor
of the test because she cannot show that other employees were
treated more favorably. However, this argument ignores evidence
suggesting that Defendant readily granted permission to other
employees to take days off or leave work before the bank had
settled its accounts, but did not extend the same privileges to
Matos. Specifically, Matos alleges that the Bank made her stay at work late on approximately three Friday evenings per month
when all of the other employees were permitted to go home
earlier. She alleges that this disparate treatment occurred
because Defendant did not consider her religious meetings a
reasonable request or a sufficiently compelling reason to permit
her to leave. According to Matos, the other employees were not
required to stay because they "have to do something, or . . .
have plans." (Matos Dep. at 78.) However, Matos was required to
stay, even though the Bank knew that she had religious meetings
on Friday nights. As a result, she was often late to her
meetings. Denying Matos' requests while granting similar requests
of other employees suggests that other employees who were not
Jehovah's Witnesses were treated more favorably, thereby
satisfying the third prong of the prima facie test.
Matos argues that Defendant's refusal to grant her two days off
work to attend the assembly also constituted disparate treatment.
Matos provided evidence suggesting that Sokol knew that Matos had
additional time that she could take off for personal business,
but failed to inform Human Resources, who made the ultimate
decision to deny Matos' request. Allegedly Sokol made this
decision because she had an understanding of "personal business"
that excluded the convention. Similarly, Matos alleges that
Defendant did make exceptions to the rule that two employees
could not take the same days off. Such favors were granted when the employer considered the employee's request to be
"reasonable." Yet, when Matos first requested the two days off in
January, Defendant refused permission because another employee
had reserved the same days. Defendant's failure to make an
exception suggests that Defendant did not consider the assembly a
sufficiently reasonable reason, a discretionary determination a
jury may consider disparate treatment.
Furthermore, Defendant has presented no evidence suggesting
that Matos' allegations of disparate treatment are false or that
her fellow employees were not given privileges that she was
denied. Accordingly, there exists a material question of fact as
to whether other employee's were treated more favorably, and
Matos has established a prima facie disparate treatment claim for
the purposes of avoiding summary judgment. Abramson,
260 F.3d at 281-82.
2. Defendant's Legitimate, Non-Discriminatory Reason
Once a plaintiff has established a prima facie case, the burden
shifts to the defendant to proffer a legitimate,
non-discriminatory reason for the disparate treatment. If the
defendant is able to provide such a reason, the burden shifts
back to the plaintiff to demonstrate "pretext," in other words,
to "point to some evidence, direct or circumstantial, from which
a factfinder could reasonably either (1) disbelieve the
employer's articulated legitimate reasons; or (2) believe that an invidious discriminatory reason was more likely than not a
motivating or determinative cause of the employer's action."
Abramson, 260 F.3d at 283 (quoting Fuentes v. Perskie,
32 F.3d 759, 764 (3d Cir. 1994)). "[T]o avoid summary judgment, the
plaintiff's evidence rebutting the employer's proffered
legitimate reasons must allow a factfinder reasonably to infer
that each of the employer's proffered non-discriminatory reasons
was either a post hoc fabrication or otherwise did not actually
motivate the employment action (that is, the proffered reason is
a pretext)." Id.; see also Waldron v. SL Industries, Inc.,
56 F.3d 491, 495 (3d Cir. 1995).
Defendant argues that it had a legitimate business reason for
denying Matos' request for days off because she had used all of
her vacation and paid occasional absence days for the year, her
absence would adversely affect the operation of the branch, and
she did not request time off until the day before the requested
day off. However, Defendant offers no explanation for Matos'
allegations that the Bank required her to stay late on Fridays
while permitting all other employees to go home. Nor has
Defendant addressed Matos' contention that Defendant grants
unpaid absence days in addition to vacation and personal days for
other employee's reasonable requests.
Defendant's arguments have limited force in light of the fact
that the Bank's initial refusal to accommodate Matos' request occurred in January of that year, when all of Matos'
vacation days remained. Furthermore, the record suggests that
Matos had not actually used all of her paid days off for the
year. The weakness of Defendant's arguments would permit a
reasonable jury to find that the Bank's actions were motivated by
discriminatory animus. Accordingly, summary judgment on Matos'
disparate treatment claim will be denied.
C. CONSTRUCTIVE DISCHARGE
As explained above, Matos has raised a question of material
fact sufficient to avoid summary judgment as to whether she was
constructively discharged. However, constructive discharge is
merely a form of adverse employment action, and is not an
independent claim. See e.g., Knabe v. Boury Corp.,
114 F.3d 407 (3d Cir. 1997) ("Knabe's constructive discharge claim, as
presented here, is not a separate ground for relief."); Drake v.
Minnesota Mining & Mfg., 134 F.3d 878, 886 (7th Cir. 1998) ("Not
only must conditions be intolerable; for a Title VII constructive
discharge claim to succeed, they must be intolerable because of
unlawful discrimination."). Because allegations of discriminatory
constructive discharge "do not state more than an employment
discrimination claim," constructive discharge is not a
"separately actionable" cause of action. Brock v. U.S.,
64 F.3d 1421, 1423-24 (9th Cir. 1995).
Accordingly, to the extent that Matos is alleging an independent claim for constructive discharge, Defendant's motion
for summary judgment will be granted.
D. HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT
To establish a prima facie case for a hostile work environment
under Title VII, a plaintiff must demonstrate: (1) she suffered
intentional discrimination because of her religion; (2) the
discrimination was pervasive and regular; (3) the discrimination
detrimentally affected her; (4) the discrimination would
detrimentally affect a reasonable person in plaintiff's position;
and (5) the employer is liable under principles of respondeat
superior. Abramson, 260 F.3d at 276-77 (quoting Kunin v. Sears
Roebuck & Co., 175 F.3d 289, 293 (3d Cir. 1999).*fn4
Defendant argues that Matos fails to demonstrate either that
the complained-of conduct was attributable to her religious
beliefs or that the discrimination was pervasive, severe, or
regular. Defendant also raises an affirmative defense that the
Bank had a sufficient anti-harassment procedure that Matos failed to follow. Because this Court now finds that Matos alleged no
conduct by Defendant sufficient to create a hostile environment,
the Court will not reach the issues of Defendant's
anti-harassment policy or discriminatory treatment.
To avoid summary judgment on a hostile work environment claim,
the plaintiff must offer some proof that her "workplace is
permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult
that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions
of the victim's employment and create an abusive working
environment." Abramson, 260 F.3d at 278-79 (quoting Harris v.
Forklift Sys., Inc., 510 U.S. 17, 21 (1993) (internal quotation
marks and citation omitted). The court then examines "all the
circumstances," including "the frequency of the discriminatory
conduct; its severity; whether it is physically threatening or
humiliating, or a mere offensive utterance; and whether it
unreasonably interferes with an employee's work performance."
Abramson, 260 F.3d at 276-77 (3d Cir. 2001) (quoting Harris,
510 U.S. at 23); Hargrave v. County of Atlantic;
262 F. Supp. 2d 393, 414 (D.N.J. 2003).
Matos has alleged no severe or pervasive behavior that would
create an abusive working environment under Title VII. In support
of her claim, Matos lists only the allegedly discriminatory
actions that have already been discussed: requiring Matos to stay
late on Fridays in spite of her religious meetings, the use of holiday decorations in her workstation, Sokol's initial refusal
to grant Matos days off in 1999 for the assembly, the refusal in
2002 leading to Matos' resignation, and Sokol's statement that
Matos must choose between her work or God.
With the exception of Sokol's statement, none of these acts
amount to the kind of "discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and
insult" that can create a hostile work environment. Additionally,
while a reasonable factfinder could find Sokol's statement that
Matos must choose between work or God to be abusive, the "mere
utterance of an . . . epithet which engenders offensive feelings
in an employee" in insufficient "unless so severe or pervasive as
to constitute an objective change in the conditions of
employment." Faragher v. City of Boca Raton, 524 U.S. 775, 787
(1998). Consequently, none of the alleged conduct rises to the
level of abuse necessary for a hostile work environment claim,
and Defendant's motion for summary judgment of Matos' hostile
work environment claim will be granted.
E. INTENTIONAL INFLICTION OF EMOTIONAL DISTRESS
Defendant also argues that Matos did not experience "extreme
and outrageous conduct" sufficient to comprise a claim of
intentional infliction of emotional distress ("IIED").*fn5
To establish a prima facie IIED claim, the plaintiff must show
"intentional and outrageous conduct by the defendant, proximate
cause, and distress that is severe." Tarr v. Ciasulli,
181 N.J. 70, 77 (N.J. 2004) (citing Buckley v. Trenton Saving Fund
Soc'y, 111 N.J. 355, 366 (1988)). Only behavior "so outrageous
in character, and so extreme in degree, as to go beyond all
possible bounds of decency, and to be regarded as atrocious, and
utterly intolerable in a civilized community" constitutes IIED.
Buckley v. Trenton Saving Fund Soc'y, 111 N.J. 355, 366 (1988).
For the same reasons that her claim for a hostile work
environment cannot survive summary judgment, Matos has not
sustained her burden of providing any evidence of conduct that
meets the IIED outrageousness standard.
However, "[b]eyond a cause of action for emotional distress,
our courts have long recognized emotional distress damages as a
component of various intentional torts and breach of contract
claims." Tarr v. Ciasulli, 181 N.J. 70, 78 (N.J. 2004); see
also Nardello v. Township of Voorhees, 873 A.2d 577
(N.J.Super. App. Div. 2005) (permitting plaintiff who brought
Conscientious Employee Protection Act claim against township to
recover damages for emotional distress). In other words,
plaintiffs can recover for emotional distress that is a result of
other torts or statutory violations even when they do not meet the high
threshold of an IIED claim.
Consequently, even if she is not entitled to a stand-alone IIED
claim, Matos may still raise emotional distress as an element of
her other claims, including her claims under the New Jersey Law
Against Discrimination (NJLAD). See Tarr v. Ciasulli,
181 N.J. 70, 78 (N.J. 2004) (recognizing that claims for emotional
distress are permitted for causes of action, such as those
asserting discrimination, based on willful conduct). Accordingly,
Defendant's motion for summary judgment of Matos' IIED claim will
be granted insofar as Matos is raising an independent cause of
action for emotional distress.
The accompanying Order shall issue today.
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