The death of a child is devastating to any parent, but being told to suck it up at work? Talk about rubbing salt in a wound.
Cecelia Ingraham, a former employee of big pharma giant Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical (now Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.), lost her teenaged daughter in 2005 to leukemia. As a tribute, the grieving mother put up pictures of her daughter and hung her ballet shoes in her cubicle at work.
But after a year and a half, her boss, Carl DeStefanis, ordered her to take them down and to “no longer speak of her daughter because she is dead,” according to a new report from Courthouse News Service.
He was also accused of telling Ms. Ingraham to act as if her daughter “did not exist.”
Ms. Ingraham’s behaviour was off-putting and distracting to her colleagues, making them feel uncomfortable at work, Mr. DeStefanis explained. But that’s not how the anguished mother saw things. She felt that her workplace had become inhospitable and sued for discrimination, constructive discharge and infliction of emotional distress.
“I was still in shock. Nothing was coming out of my mouth at the time because I was still in shock and I was in disbelief,” Ms. Ingraham testified, according to a report by ABC News. “And I said to him, I cannot believe that. I says, I don’t see anybody avoiding me. They always come over, they give me my work.”
A county court judge ruled against Ms. Ingraham, prompting her to file an appeal, which she also lost.
The presiding appellant judge pointed out that it is difficult for a plaintiff to prove intentional infliction of emotional distress, citing that it has be outrageous and beyond what would be tolerated in civilized society.
“We have previously said that conduct in the workplace will rarely be so egregious as to give rise to a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress,” Judge Victor Ashrafi wrote.
He also said that while many would viewtelling a parent who is mourning to forget about their dead child as insensitive, it’s not the employer’s fault if the parent overreacts and quits his or her job.
Would you stay at a job where your boss told you to stop mourning?