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Exclusive remedy bars no emotional distress claim, Court

By  Patience Saghana
Workers compensation’s exclusive remedy does not bar a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress filed by a Qualcomm Inc. employee who alleged sexual harassment and discrimination, a California appeals court ruled Friday.

The plaintiff in Debra Blumenfeld vs. Qualcomm Inc. alleged a supervisor subjected her to unwelcome sexual comments, inappropriate touching and battery, court records state.

A trial court, however, granted Qualcomm’s request for summary judgment. It found, among other things, that the plaintiff could not show the supervisor’s conduct was unwelcome and that her claims were subject to the exclusive remedy of the workers compensation system.

But California’s 4th District Court of Appeals ruled that the plaintiff’s evidence created a triable issue as to whether the supervisor’s conduct was unwelcome and whether it was directed at the plaintiff because of her gender. The appeals court reversed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment regarding harassment and failure to prevent harassment.

“We also conclude that because Blumenfeld’s claim for harassment is viable, her common law claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress is not subject to the workers compensation system,” the court said in its ruling.


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