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Milton v. Illinois Bell Telephone Co.

OPINION FILED OCTOBER 9, 1981.

KENNETH W. MILTON, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

ILLINOIS BELL TELEPHONE COMPANY, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. MYRON T. GOMBERG, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE LORENZ DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Plaintiff, Kenneth W. Milton, filed a complaint which alleges that his employer, Illinois Bell Telephone Company, intentionally caused him to suffer severe emotional distress. The telephone company's motion to dismiss the cause of action was granted by the trial court on the grounds that the alleged conduct was, as a matter of law, not outrageous enough to be actionable. The issues presented by this appeal are: (1) whether the complaint alleges conduct which is outrageous enough to meet the pleading requirements for the tort of intentional infliction of severe emotional distress; (2) whether plaintiff's sole remedy is under either the Workers' Compensation Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 48, par. 138.1 et seq.) or the Workers' Occupational Diseases Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 48, par. 172.36 et seq.); and (3) whether plaintiff is required to plead exhaustion of the remedies provided by a collective bargaining agreement. The following allegations are taken from the complaint.

Plaintiff is employed by defendant as a telephone installer. One of his job duties is to complete written reports on the time required, material used, and tasks performed for each installation or repair job. Defendant uses these work reports in billing customers and in compiling reports of corporate expenses for the Illinois Commerce Commission.

Throughout his employment with defendant, plaintiff's foreman and other superiors have allegedly made frequent demands that he falsify these reports. According to the complaint, defendant's officers, executives, and managers know that it is a widespread practice for defendant's foremen to demand that installers falsify work reports. Allegedly, the unrealistic performance goals set by the company, and the failure to act to prevent widespread demands by foremen for falsification of work reports, show that it is defendant's corporate policy to permit, allow, and encourage foremen and others to demand that installers falsify work reports.

Plaintiff claims he has consistently refused to falsify work reports and that, in retaliation, his foreman and other superiors have intentionally harrassed and coerced him through use of the following practices:

(1) Giving plaintiff assignments which were geographically and environmentally more undesirable than the assignments given to installers who cooperated in falsifying work reports;

(2) Giving plaintiff assignments where he had a minimal opportunity for obtaining overtime while giving "more cooperative" installers assignments where there was a high probability of obtaining overtime;

(3) Criticizing plaintiff for complying with company rules and then punishing him for not complying with those rules;

(4) Setting widely unrealistic time estimates for tasks assigned to plaintiff and bouncing him from job to job to wear him out physically and mentally;

(5) Keeping an extraordinarily close watch on plaintiff's work and following him from job to job;

(6) Misleading customers about plaintiff's capability, efficiency, and integrity, plus encouraging customers to report complaints about plaintiff;

(7) Arbitrarily denying plaintiff "distress leave" and "reserve week leave";

(8) Refusing to accept accurate work reports from plaintiff and adding false information to reports he had already completed.

Such retaliation is allegedly a widespread practice used by defendant's foremen and other employees on installers who refuse to falsify work reports. Again it is alleged that these practices constitute a corporate policy which is known by, permitted, allowed, and encouraged by defendant's officers, executives, and managers. The complaint concludes by stating that defendant's conduct has caused ...


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