Thursday

Forced to Work Absurd Hours = Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress



Have you ever been asked to work on a firm holiday, a scheduled vacation, or until 5 in the morning FOR NO GOOD REASON? It's one thing for a professional, such as an accountant, to work long hours when a particular project requires it. It's a completely different thing, however, to be forced to work at absurd hours simply because a particular manager requires it.
We've received several complaints along these lines.

Shoemaker's Elves Manager. The manager who expects all of her staff to work like the shoemaker's elves and wait around all day during normal business hours to finally be given the project at 10 PM with the expectation that they slave away all night and finish the project by 9 AM the next morning -- while the manager is snoring away at home in a comfy bed.

Lonely Insomniac Manager. This is the manager that works all night with no real impending deadlines and expects all of her staff to stay up with her.

Hangover Manager. This manager waltzes into the office every day at noon to begin the workday and does not get around to doling out assignments until everyone is just about to shut down their laptops for the day.

Let us know about any other managers we are forgetting.

Such managers are not only a good way to drive away bright accountants who can easily get a job elsewhere, but also may expose the firm to liability for intentional infliction of emotional distress. The general elements of a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress are:

  1. Defendant acted intentionally or recklessly;
  2. Defendant’s conduct was extreme and outrageous;
  3. Defendant’s act is the cause of the distress; and
  4. Plaintiff suffers severe emotional distress as a result of defendant’s conduct.

Under these elements, it seems that some staff accountants might have a decent chance for a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress by alleging:

-- The manager acted intentionally because she knew there was not an impending deadline but required the staff to work absurd hours anyway

-- The manager's conduct was extreme because she knew she was subjecting staff to extreme sleep deprivation and long hours without just cause

-- The manager's conduct caused the staff to be deprived of sleep and to work long hours, thereby subjecting staff to emotional, mental, and physical distress resulting in

  • illness
  • severe headaches
  • back and spinal injuries or other permanent physical trauma from sitting at a laptop for more than 15 hours for several consecutive days
  • weakened circulatory system from lack of aerobic exercise
  • increased mortality
  • divorce or aother inability to maintain healthy relationships
  • decreased mental capacity
  • increased suseptibility to accidents causing personal injury
  • staff having to resign to maintain their health

Any other types of distress we are forgetting here?



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