Mary Richards v. U.S. Steel
Filed opinion of the court by Judge Chang. AFFIRMED. Ann Claire Williams, Circuit Judge; David F. Hamilton, Circuit Judge and Edmond E. Chang, District Court Judge. [6864490-1]  [16-2436]
United States Court of Appeals
For the Seventh Circuit
MARY R. RICHARDS,
Appeal from the United States District Court for the
Southern District of Illinois.
No. 3:15‐cv‐00646 — J. Phil Gilbert, Judge.
ARGUED DECEMBER 9, 2016 — DECIDED AUGUST 28, 2017
Before WILLIAMS and HAMILTON, Circuit Judges, and
CHANG, District Judge.
CHANG, District Judge. Mary Richards filed this lawsuit
against her employer, U.S. Steel. As the case comes to us, all
that remains is an Illinois state‐law claim for intentional in‐
Of the Northern District of Illinois, sitting by designation.
fliction of emotional distress. On that claim, the district court
entered summary judgment against Richards on the ground
that it is preempted by the Illinois Human Rights Act, 775
ILCS 5/8‐111(D). Although our analysis of the preemption
issue differs from the district court’s take on it, we agree that
the emotional‐distress claim fails as a matter of law. U.S.
Steel can be held responsible for only a subset of the factual
allegations that Richard relies on, and on that set of facts,
U.S. Steel did not engage in “extreme and outrageous” be‐
havior under Illinois common law. We thus affirm the entry
of summary judgment against plaintiff on her emotional‐
Because the district court granted summary judgment to
U.S. Steel, we recite the facts in the light most favorable to
Richards. Richards was hired by National Steel Corporation
in 1995, and she continued to work for the company follow‐
ing its sale to U.S. Steel in 2003. At some point in 2009 or ear‐
ly 2010, Richards did a four‐month rotation as a “learner
electrician” in a department supervised by Daniel Harris. R.
29–8, Harris Dep. at 6. During that rotation, Richards told
Harris that she wanted to be the best electrician she could be.
Harris Dep. at 11. But in response, Harris told Richards that
she would never be able to meet his standards. Id.
After the learner‐electrician stint, Richards moved on to
different department, namely, the Basic Oxygen Furnace De‐
partment, where she worked from April 2010 to January
2011. R. 29–1, Richards Dep. at 15, 28. There, Jesse Byrd was
one of her supervisors. R. 29–3, Byrd Dep. at 11. Richards
had several negative experiences—most involving Byrd—
during the nine months that she worked in the Furnace De‐
For example, on her first day at the Furnace Department,
Richards met with Byrd in his office. Richards Dep. at 36.
During this meeting, Byrd asked Richards whether she could
draw a motor circuit and what she had learned in blueprint
class. Id. at 36–37. Richards was the only learner electrician
to be asked those questions. Richards Dep. at 37–38. In May
2010 (the month after she started in the Furnace Depart‐
ment), Richards lost a work glove. Richards Dep. at 45–46.
On her break, she approached Byrd, who was talking to four
or five men at the time, and she asked for a new pair of
gloves. Id. at 45–46. In response, Byrd asked her if she want‐
ed one glove or two—and then made a comment about in‐
competent people. Richards Dep. at 46.
In June 2010, Richards had another encounter with Byrd.
Richards was walking from a patio back to the work area
when Byrd approached her, jerked her jacket open, and said
“I like that” while staring at her. Richards Dep. at 38–39.
Richards was shocked and scared, so she “got the hell away
from” Byrd. Richards Dep. at 39.
Around three months later, one of Richards’s coworkers
succumbed to heat exhaustion. Richards took that coworker
to the break room, called 911, and started to administer first
aid. Richards Dep. at 87. When Byrd showed up, Richards
offered to retrieve her and her coworker’s tools from the job
site, but Byrd went “b[ers]erk” and told her to stay put.
Richards Dep. at 88. After around 30 minutes, Richards left
the break room to go back to the job site to “see what was
going on,” and she ran into Byrd. Id. Richards just asked
Byrd if it was ok for her to retrieve the tools, but Byrd
“screamed at [her] again,” so she walked away, returned to
the break room, and sat down at a table. Id. at 89. Byrd
walked in, towered over Richards, and told her to tell him
that her boss (which was him) was a prick. Id. Byrd then
stood behind Richards and said “[m]atter of fact, tell your
boss he’s a prick.” Id. Richards replied, “I don’t have to, you
already did.” Id.
Later that same day, Richards was in the breakroom
when Area Manager Lowery McBride (Byrd’s supervisor)
came into the room. Richards Dep. at 206. Without saying
anything, McBride grabbed Richards’s radio off of her chest
to make a call. Id. at 207. The radio had been hooked to Rich‐
ards’s bra. Id.
Toward the end of December 2010, Richards had several
more run‐ins with Byrd. In one incident, Richards had to
stand on a bucket in order to reach some screws that she
needed to fix a light. Richards Dep. at 43. Byrd saw her do‐
ing this and said, “You think that bucket will hold all that?”
Richards’ Dep. at 43. Two other electricians were in the
room. Richards Dep. at 43. In this same time period, Rich‐
ards and several coworkers were gathered in the break room
when Byrd came in and told a sexual joke. Richards Dep. at
Then, on December 31, 2010, Byrd asked Richards to call
a coworker and ask that coworker if he would work over‐
time. Richards Dep. at 68–69. During the call, the coworker
asked Richards if she could work the overtime instead. Rich‐
ards Dep. at 69. When Byrd heard this he told Richards to
get off the phone and said “[b]efore I let you work the over‐
time, I’ll jump off the bridge.” Richards Dep. at 69. Richards
retorted, “I’ll take you to the bridge.” Id. Richards ended up
working the overtime shift, and Byrd placed her on trash de‐
tail (though Richards’s coworker ended up taking out most
of the trash, Richards Dep. at 112).
During Richards’s nine months in the Furnace Depart‐
ment, Byrd also (1) criticized her in front of her coworkers
for putting a box on the floor instead of on a shelf; (2) asked
Richards if she was listening to him and said “[w]hat, are
you scared of me?”; (3) threatened to fire Richards after she
called him for help with a unit breakdown; and (4) ominous‐
ly told her that she was sitting in a chair where a coworker
had sat when he was fired. According to Richards, Byrd also
would not give her the tools she needed to do her job, de‐
spite providing tools to other Department employees. Rich‐
ards Dep. at 15. When asked for specifics during her deposi‐
tion, however, Richards remembered only two instances.
Once, Richards asked for two stick rulers—one for her and
one for her coworker—but she received only one, which she
gave to her coworker. Richards Dep. at 24, 32–33. The second
time, Richards was out of the office on leave, and Byrd gave
everyone in the Furnace Department a flashlight as a
Christmas gift. Id. at 26. When Richards returned from leave,
Byrd did not have a flashlight for her. Id. at 26.
Richards left the Furnace Department on January 9, 2011
and began working for the Maintenance Services Depart‐
ment. After she left, Byrd followed her and attempted to
speak with her twice. Richards Dep. at 157, 159. Richards
does not know what Byrd tried to say to her because she
“just ran away from him.” Richards Dep. at 159.
On January 28, 2011, Richards filed a discrimination
complaint with U.S. Steel about some of Byrd’s conduct.
Richards Dep. at 279. Shortly thereafter, human resources
personnel Lydia Kachigan and Nic Krasucki met with Rich‐
ards and her union representatives to discuss the complaint.
At that meeting, Kachigan speculated that Byrd had opened
Richards’s jacket to look at an inside pocket, and told Rich‐
ards that she needed to adjust to Byrd’s rough management
A couple of weeks later, on February 12, 2011, feeling like
Kachigan had not adequately addressed her concerns, Rich‐
ards called an U.S. Steel employee hotline to report inappro‐
priate comments made by Byrd, as well as the jacket inci‐
dent. Richards Dep. at 54, 60. A few days later, Richards met
with human resources personnel Mark Tade and David
Coombes to address this phone call. When Tade asked Rich‐
ards about the jacket incident, she became upset and started
crying. Tade told Richards she was too emotional and should
see a psychiatrist. Id.
Several months later, while working for the Maintenance
Services Department, Richards failed to show up or call off
for an overtime shift that she was scheduled to work. Rich‐
ards Dep. at 248, 250. Richards was suspended, pending a
hearing, for her failure to call off. Following that hearing, her
suspension was converted to a discharge. Richards Dep. at
252, 254. After an arbitration, the discharge was overturned.
Richards was evaluated by a psychologist in 2013. R. 29–
5, Jewell Report. The psychologist diagnosed Richards with
Post‐traumatic Stress Disorder and Dysthymic Disorder.
Jewell Report at 5. He noted that “the symptoms of these
disorders seem to have appeared as a result of [the] traumat‐
ic experiences [Richards] encountered while on the job” at
U.S. Steel. Id.
B. Procedural History
Initially, Richards filed a three‐count complaint in the
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois in No‐
vember 2012. R. 26–1, Richards I Complaint. The complaint
alleged (1) retaliation, (2) sexual harassment, and (3) the in‐
tentional infliction of emotional distress. Id. U.S. Steel filed a
motion for summary judgment, asserting that the retaliation
and sexual harassment claims were time‐barred and that
Richards had failed to state a claim for intentional infliction
of emotional distress. Richards I, 2015 WL 1598081, at *8, *10.
The district court dismissed the retaliation and sexual har‐
assment claims as time‐barred. Id. at *10. The district court
held that Richards had stated a claim for intentional inflic‐
tion of emotional distress, but with the federal‐law claims
dismissed, the court declined to exercise supplemental juris‐
diction over the remaining claim. Id. at 11.
Richards refiled her intentional infliction of emotional
distress claim in the Circuit Court of Madison County on
May 1, 2015. R. 1–1, Richards II Complaint. U.S. Steel re‐
moved the case—on the basis of diversity jurisdiction—to
the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois.
U.S. Steel then filed another motion for summary judgment,
this time asserting three grounds for the dismissal of Rich‐
ard’s emotional‐distress claim: (1) Illinois Human Rights Act
preemption, (2) untimeliness, and (3) failure to state a claim.
See R. 26, U.S. Steel SJ Mot. U.S. Steel also argued that it
could not be held vicariously liable for some of the conduct
that Richards is claiming caused her severe emotional dis‐
tress. Id. at 18 n.8. The district court granted U.S. Steel’s
summary judgment motion and dismissed the claim for in‐
tentional infliction of emotional distress on the ground that
it is preempted by the Human Rights Act. Richards v. U.S.
Steel, No. 15‐cv‐00646‐JPG‐SCW, 2016 WL 2755003, at *3 (S.D.
Ill. May 12, 2016) (Richards II). The district court held that the
emotional‐distress claim is preempted because it is “’inextri‐
cably linked’ to her claims of retaliation and sexual harass‐
ment.” Id. at *2; see also id. (“[A] review of the complaint in‐
dicates that all the allegations relate to a hostile work envi‐
ronment and retaliatory discharge.”). Richards appeals from
the grant of summary judgment in U.S. Steel’s favor.
II. Standard of Review
We review a district court’s grant of summary judgment
de novo, construing all facts and reasonable inferences in the
non‐moving party’s favor. Melton v. Tippecanoe Cnty., 838 F.3d
814, 818 (7th Cir. 2016). Summary judgment is proper “if the
movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any ma‐
terial fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter
of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). And there may be more than
one basis to affirm the entry of summary judgment: “[w]e
can affirm on any ground supported by the record so long as
the issue was raised and the non‐moving party had a fair
opportunity to contest the issue in the district court.” Locke v.
Haessig, 788 F.3d 662, 666 (7th Cir. 2015).
III. Preemption under the Illinois Human Rights Act
In this appeal, Richards argues that the Illinois Human
Rights Act does not preempt her common law claim for in‐
tentional infliction of emotional distress. The statutory
source of preemption is Section 8-111(D) of the Act: “[e]xcept
as otherwise provided by law, no court of this state shall
have jurisdiction over the subject of an alleged civil rights vio‐
lation other than as set forth in this Act.” 775 ILCS 5/8-111(D)
(emphases added).1 That statutory provision tells us that the
“subject” of an alleged “civil rights violation” must be heard
under the procedures of the Act.
In the context of employment cases, the Human Rights
Act defines “civil rights violation” to include sex discrimina‐
tion in employment. Specifically, it is a civil rights violation
“[f]or any employer to refuse to hire, to segregate, or to act
with respect to recruitment, hiring, promotion, renewal of
employment, selection for training or apprenticeship, dis‐
charge, discipline, tenure or terms, privileges or conditions
of employment on the basis of unlawful discrimination,” 775
ILCS 5/2‐102(A), which includes discrimination against a
person because of her sex, see id. § 1–103(Q). The Act also
The preemption provision was previously designated as subparagraph
(C) of Section 8‐111, so earlier opinions refer to the provision as Section
8‐111(C) instead of Section 8‐111(D). The redesignation was effective on
January 1, 2008. See Ill. Public Act 95–243, § 5.
specifically bans sexual harassment in employment: it is a
civil rights violation for “any employer, employee, agent of
any employer, employment agency or labor agency to en‐
gage in sexual harassment.” 775 ILCS 5/2‐102(D). Sexual
harassment in turn is defined as “any unwelcome sexual ad‐
vances or requests for sexual favors or any conduct of a sex‐
ual nature when … such conduct has the purpose or effect of
substantially interfering with an individual’s work perfor‐
mance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive work‐
ing environment.” Id. § 2–101(E). Finally, it is a civil rights
violation to retaliate against an employee for complaining
about either sexual harassment or unlawful discrimination.
775 ILCS 5/6‐101(A).
With those statutory definitions of “civil rights viola‐
tions,” it is easy in some instances to figure out that a com‐
mon‐law claim is, in actuality, the “subject” of a “civil rights
violation” under the Act, 775 ILCS 5/8‐111(D), and is thus
preempted. For example, if an employer refused to hire a job
applicant on a prohibited basis, such as race or sex, 775 ILCS
5/1‐103(Q), then that would be a civil rights violation under
the Act and would not comprise the elements of an emotion‐
al‐distress claim (we discuss those elements in more detail
later). To be sure, that sort of discriminatory hiring practice
would be illegal under the Act (not to mention under federal
law, in most circumstances), but is not the sort of egregious
conduct that Illinois courts have deemed to qualify as inten‐
tional infliction of emotional distress. So the unsuccessful job
applicant could not pursue the claim of discrimination under
the guise of the common‐law tort of intentional infliction of
But misconduct that arises in the employment context
might still form the basis for a sustainable common‐law tort
under Illinois law. It is true that, in past cases, we have char‐
acterized Section 8‐111(D) as a “preemption” provision, e.g.,
Naeem v. McKesson Drug Co., 444 F.3d 593, 602 (7th Cir.
2006)—and indeed that statutory provision does require that
the “subject” of a “civil rights action” be brought only under
the Human Rights Act. But the Act does not call for preemp‐
tion in the broader sense that all claims arising out of an em‐
ployment relationship are precluded. That sort of preemp‐
tion is sometimes found in federal statutes that block state‐
law claims relating to, or arising from, an entire category of
conduct or an entire category of injury. E.g., Northwest, Inc. v.
Ginsberg, 134 S. Ct. 1422, 1428 (2014) (discussing scope of
federal statute that preempts state laws “related to” the
“price, route, or service of an air carrier,” 49 U.S.C.
§ 41713(b)(1)); Bruesewitz v. Wyeth LLC, 562 U.S. 223, 230
(2011) (discussing scope of federal statute that preempts
state‐law claims for damages “arising” “from a vaccine‐
related injury,” 42 U.S.C. § 300aa–22(b)(1)).
In contrast, the Human Rights Act’s preemption provi‐
sion is narrower. As the Illinois Supreme Court explained in
concluding that common‐law claims may be based on some
The adjudication of tort claims has traditional‐
ly been within the province of our courts, and
we can find nothing in the language of the Act,
or the policy underlying it, which indicates
that the legislature intended to pre‐
clude … court[s] from exercising jurisdiction
over all tort claims related to incidents of sexu‐
Maksimovic v. Tsogalis, 687 N.E.2d 21, 24 (Ill. 1997). To draw
the line between preemption versus not, the Illinois Supreme
Court has boiled down the inquiry as follows: whether a
court “may exercise jurisdiction over a tort claim depends on
whether the tort claim is inextricably linked to a civil rights
violation such that there is no independent basis for the action
apart from the Act itself.” Id. at 23 (emphasis added). Put
another way, the key to preemption is not whether the facts
that support a common law tort claim (like intentional inflic‐
tion of emotional distress) would also support a claim under
the Human Rights Act, but rather whether the plaintiff can
prove the elements of the tort “independent of any legal du‐
ties created by the Illinois Human Rights Act.” Id. at 24 (em‐
phasis added); see also Geise v. Phoenix Co., 639 N.E.2d 1273,
1277 (Ill. 1994) (on facts of that case, sexual harassment claim
preempted because “no independent basis” for common‐law
claim); Naeem v. McKesson Drug Co., 444 F.3d 593, 602–03 (7th
Cir. 2006) (“if a plaintiff can allege facts sufficient to establish
elements of a tort, that tort is not preempted” by the Act). So,
although Illinois case law at times refers to broad‐concept
formulations of the test, such as whether the claims are “in‐
extricably linked,” or “in essence” one and the same, Maksi‐
movic, 687 N.E.2d at 23, the concrete question to ask is
whether the plaintiff states a valid common‐law claim with‐
out needing to rely on the rights and duties created by the
Human Rights Act, id. at 24; Geise, 639 N.E.2d at 1277; Naeem,
444 F.3d at 602–03.2 Following the Illinois Supreme Court,
we too have emphasized that the preemption test “rest[s] on
an examination of legal duties, not on the factual” overlap
between the claims. Naeem, 444 F.3d at 603 n.4. Applied here,
the factual overlap between Richards’s statutory and emo‐
tional‐distress claim does not matter, so she can pursue tort
claims free of statutory preemption—as long as she does not
rely on rights or duties created by the Human Rights Act.
IV. Analysis of the Emotional‐Distress Claim
A. Respondeat Superior
In this case, when we ask whether Richards can state a
valid common‐law claim without needing to rely on rights
or duties sourced to the Human Rights Act, our answer is
no. Disarmed of the Human Rights Act, Richards faces in‐
surmountable factual and legal hurdles. First, the set of
facts—that is, the alleged misconduct—on which Richards
can rely in asserting the emotional‐distress claim is restricted
only to those that the Illinois common law would attribute to
It is worth noting that, in resolving U.S. Steel’s summary judgment mo‐
tion, the district court order referred to the “inextricably linked” formu‐
lation as if it were primarily a factual‐overlap test, and the order quoted
at length from Jansen v. Packaging Corp. of America, 123 F.3d 490, 493 (7th
Cir. 1997). Richards, 2016 WL 2755003, at *2–3. But Jansen was decided a
couple of months before Maksimovic, in which the Illinois Supreme Court
made clear that the preemption‐or‐not test is simply whether the plaintiff
has established the elements of her tort claim independent of any duties
supplied by the Human Rights Act, and rejected a factual‐relatedness
test. Maksimovic, 687 N.E.2d at 23–24.
U.S. Steel. Although the Human Rights Act imposes strict
liability on an employer for a supervisor’s misconduct, not
so with the common law. Geise, 639 N.E.2d at 1277 (under the
common law, “[a]bsent the allegations of sexual harassment,
Geise would have no independent basis for imposing liabil‐
ity on her former employer under the facts present here”); id.
(“the Act imposes strict liability on the employer”). 3 Under
Illinois common law, an “employer may be held vicariously
liable for the tort of an employee if the tort is committed
within the scope of the employment.” Boston v. U.S. Steel
Corp., 816 F.3d 455, 467 (7th Cir. 2016). Illinois courts look to
the criteria identified in Section 228 of the Restatement (Sec‐
ond) of Agency to determine whether an employee’s conduct
is within the scope of employment:
(1) Conduct of servant is within the scope of
employment if, but only if:
(a) it is of the kind he is employed to per‐
(b) it occurs substantially within the author‐
ized time and space limits;
3 In the district court, U.S. Steel raised this issue in a footnote, see U.S.
Steel SJ Mot. at 18 n.8, and did so again on appeal, Appellee’s Br. at 11
n.7. We often find that arguments in footnotes are insufficiently devel‐
oped, but here U.S. Steel actually cited pertinent case law, and also it was
Richards’s burden, as the plaintiff, to establish in the first instance that
U.S. Steel could be held liable for the alleged misconduct. See Bagent v.
Blessing Care Corp., 862 N.E.2d 985, 992 (Ill. 2007) (to apply respondeat
superior, plaintiff has the burden to show that an employee’s tortious
conduct was within the scope of employment). Yet Richards’s briefing
(both in the district court and on appeal) made no meaningful effort to
(c) it is actuated, at least in part, by a pur‐
pose to serve the master, and
(d) if force is intentionally used by the serv‐
ant against another, the use of force is not
unexpectable by the master.
(2) Conduct of a servant is not within the scope
of employment if it is different in kind from
that authorized, far beyond the authorized
time or space limits, or too little actuated by a
purpose to serve the master.
Restatement (Second) of Agency § 228 (1958) (cited by Bagent
v. Blessing Care Corp., 862 N.E.2d 985, 992 (Ill. 2007)). In keep‐
ing with Section 228, an employer is not liable for the acts of
an employee where the acts complained of were committed
solely for the benefit of the employee. Boston, 816 F.3d at 467;
Wright v. City of Danville, 675 N.E.2d 110, 118 (Ill. 1996). And
in the specific context of sexual assault, the sexual nature of
the misconduct generally disqualifies the employee’s act as
being taken in furtherance of the employer’s interest. Doe ex
rel. Doe v. Lawrence Hall Youth Servs., 966 N.E.2d 52, 61 (Ill.
App. Ct. 2012) (collecting cases and holding that “sexual as‐
sault by its very nature precludes a conclusion that it occurred
within the employee’s scope of employment under the doc‐
trine of respondeat superior”) (emphasis in original); Deloney v.
Bd. of Educ. of Thornton Twp., 666 N.E.2d 792, 797–98 (Ill. App.
Ct. 1996). This is so even where the employment provided
the opportunity for the employee to engage in misconduct.
Doe, 966 N.E.2d at 61–62; Deloney, 666 N.E.2d at 788.4
Applying these principles to this case, U.S. Steel cannot
be held liable for two of the instances of misconduct that
Richards has alleged in support of the emotional‐distress
claim. The first happened in June 2010, when Richards was
walking from a patio back to the work area. Jesse Byrd (one
of the supervisors in the Furnace Department) approached
Richards, jerked her jacket open, and said “I like that” while
staring at her. Richards Dep. at 38–39. The second happened
in around December 2010. Richards and several coworkers
were gathered in the break room when Byrd came in and
told an off‐color joke (described earlier in this opinion) in‐
volving his wife. Richards Dep. at 92. Neither instance, even
though offensive in what should be a non‐discriminatory
workplace, had any apparent relation to Byrd’s job duties as
a supervisor or could be said to further U.S. Steel’s interests.
Illinois common law does not reach so far as to attribute
Byrd’s conduct in those instances to U.S. Steel.
If this seems too much of a constraint on imposing liability on employ‐
ers, remember that the Human Rights Act provides for much broader
attribution of misconduct to employers, Geise, 639 N.E.2d at 1277, but
Richards brought claims under the Act too late. We also emphasize that
Richards has not pursued her claims (either in resisting summary judg‐
ment in the district court or on appeal) against U.S. Steel under a theory
of negligent hiring, supervision, or retention of Byrd or other individuals
who mistreated her, Cf. Anicich v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc., 852 F.3d 643
(7th Cir. 2017) (predicting that Illinois would recognize a claim against
an employer for a supervisor’s murder of subordinate where the em‐
ployer had reason to foresee danger and failed to prevent the misuse of
supervisory authority), so we have no occasion to address those theories.
B. The “Extreme and Outrageous” Element
Moving beyond the narrowing of the facts that Richards
can rely on, the second hurdle to successfully asserting a
claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress is the
high bar set by Illinois case law for that type of claim. Under
Illinois law, a plaintiff may recover damages for intentional
infliction of emotional distress only if she establishes that (1)
the defendant’s conduct was truly extreme and outrageous;
(2) the defendant intended to inflict severe emotional dis‐
tress (or knew that there was at least a high probability that
its conduct would cause severe emotional distress); and (3)
the defendant’s conduct did in fact cause severe emotional
distress. Feltmeier v. Feltmeier, 798 N.E.2d 75, 80 (Ill. 2003). In
defining the first element, the Illinois Supreme Court has
held that “to qualify as outrageous, the nature of the defend‐
ant’s conduct must be so extreme as to go beyond all possi‐
ble bounds of decency and be regarded as intolerable in a
civilized society.” Feltmeier, 798 N.E.2d at 83. To avoid im‐
posing liability for the rough and tumble of unpleasant—but
not law‐breaking—behavior, the case law instructs that
“‘mere insults, indignities, threats, annoyances, petty op‐
pressions, or other trivialities’ do not amount to extreme and
outrageous conduct, nor does conduct ‘characterized by
malice or a degree of aggravation which would entitle the
plaintiff to punitive damages for another tort.’” Van Stan v.
Fancy Colours & Co., 125 F.3d 563, 567 (7th Cir. 1997) (quoting
Pub. Fin. Corp. v. Davis, 360 N.E.2d 765, 767 (Ill. 1976)). And
to avoid imposing liability for idiosyncratic and individual‐
ized reactions, “[w]hether conduct is extreme and outra‐
geous is judged on an objective standard based on all the
facts and circumstances of a particular case.” Franciski v.
Univ. of Chi. Hosps., 338 F.3d 765, 769 (7th Cir. 2003).
Liability for emotional distress, as a common‐law tort, is
even more constrained in the employment context. “Illinois
courts have limited recovery to cases in which the employ‐
er’s conduct has been truly egregious.” Van Stan, 125 F.3d at
568. This is because “personality conflicts and questioning of
job performance are unavoidable aspects of employment
and … frequently, they produce concern and distress.” Id. at
567 (internal quotation marks omitted). Indeed, there is gen‐
eral hesitation “to find intentional infliction of emotional dis‐
tress in the workplace because, if everyday job stresses re‐
sulting from discipline, personality conflicts, job transfers or
even terminations could give rise to a cause of action for in‐
tentional infliction of emotional distress, nearly every em‐
ployee would have a cause of action.” Naeem, 444 F.3d at 606
(internal quotation marks omitted); see also Lewis v. School
Dist. No. 70, 523 F.3d 730, 747 (7th Cir. 2008) (“Employers of‐
ten and necessarily take actions during the course of busi‐
ness that result in emotional distress, but those actions can‐
not be classified as ‘extreme and outrageous’ unless they go
well beyond the parameters of the typical workplace dis‐
pute.” (internal quotation marks omitted)). As a result,
courts are hesitant to conclude that conduct is extreme and
outrageous in the employer‐employee context unless an
“employer clearly abuses the power it holds over an em‐
ployee in a manner far more severe than the typical disa‐
greements or job‐related stress caused by the average work
environment.” Naeem, 444 F.3d at 605 (internal quotation
marks omitted); Lewis, 523 F.3d at 747.
Under those governing legal principles, the misconduct5
that Richards advances as the premise of the emotional‐
distress claim does not qualify as “extreme and outrageous,”
even when viewed in the light most favorable to her. As dis‐
cussed earlier in the opinion, Jesse Byrd (a supervisor in the
Furnace Department) and Daniel Harris (the supervisor in
another department), made comments about Richards’s lack
of workplace competency. Among other things, Byrd also
made an insulting remark about Richards’s weight and
dared Richards to call him an insulting name to his face.
And, in one instance, Area Manager Lowery McBride (who
was Byrd’s supervisor) grabbed a radio off of Richards’s
chest to make a call. Although none of these instances are a
credit to a respectful workplace, none of them, either alone
or in combination, amount to “extreme and outrageous”
5 We pause for a moment to comment on the bounds of the set of facts
that Richards can rely on. First, it is worth noting again that, as discussed
earlier in the opinion, two instances of misconduct cannot be attributed
to U.S. Steel under respondeat superior. Second, we reject U.S. Steel’s ar‐
gument that Richards is limited to only the three acts that were expressly
identified in the complaint as comprising the intentional infliction of emo‐
tional distress. See Compl. ¶ 22; Appellee’s Br. at 17. Federal courts are
not confined to the factual allegations in a complaint when considering a
motion for summary judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Third (and on
the other hand), we do limit the set of facts to the events that Richards
actually discussed in her brief on appeal. See Albrechtsen v. Bd. of Regents
of Univ. of Wis. Sys., 309 F.3d 433, 436 (7th Cir. 2002). In other words, in
deciding this appeal, we have not considered conduct that Richards her‐
self did not include in her brief, even if other events were mentioned in
the pleadings, depositions, or other documents filed with the district
court. It is outside the federal judiciary’s duty to comb through a lengthy
record to divine additional facts that might support an appellant’s claim.
misconduct under Illinois law. This is especially true given
that this all took place in the workplace, where Illinois com‐
mon law (remember, the Human Rights Act is broader) pays
special care to avoid transforming employer‐employee disa‐
greements into an emotional‐distress claim. See Naeem, 444
F.3d at 605. The same goes for the reactions of human re‐
sources personnel Lydia Kachigan and Mark Tade, who al‐
legedly made insensitive remarks in response to Richards’s
complaints about Byrd. By the time Richards met with Ka‐
chigan and (separately) Tade, Richards already had left the
Furnace Department and Byrd was no longer her supervisor.
Nor were the human resources personnel required to believe
Richards’s version of events. It bears repeating again that the
Human Rights Act might very well have dictated a different
response by human resources personnel. But it is a different
story under Illinois common law, where the bar is set much
higher. Richards’s emotional‐distress claim fails as a matter
Constrained to the alleged misconduct that could possi‐
bly be attributed to U.S. Steel, Richards has not established,
independent of the Human Rights Act, that U.S. Steel en‐
gaged in “extreme and outrageous” behavior under Illinois
common law. We thus AFFIRM the district court’s entry of
summary judgment against the plaintiff on her emotional‐
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