Company's Public Refutation of Plaintiff's Claims Not Actionable

Published Date: 
April 1, 2008

Jewett v. IDT Corp., 2008 WL 508486 (D.N.J. 2008) — Plaintiff alleged that he was unlawfully terminated after complaining that his employer had been making improper payments to foreign officials.  He initially brought suit alleging violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act, and the New Jersey Anti-Racketeering Statute, and later added claims for abuse of process, defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Plaintiff’s defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims were based upon public statements made by company management characterizing his complaint as a “baseless claim by a former disgruntled employee” and a 10-K statement disclosing the lawsuit and noting the company had not found “any evidence” to substantiate plaintiff’s allegations.  On a motion to dismiss the later added claims, the court dismissed the defamation and abuse of process claims.  The court found that the public comments were not defamatory as a matter of law.  Defendants then filed a second motion to dismiss the remaining claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Reiterating that it is “extremely rare to find conduct in the employment context that will rise to the level of outrageousness necessary to provide a basis for recovery for the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress,” the court dismissed the plaintiff’s claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress.  The court found these public statements do not rise to the level of “extreme” or “outrageous” behavior required, and that they are “routine” and “commonplace” in the course of litigation.

Note: This article was published in the April 1, 2008 issue of the New Jersey eAuthority.