and that no public policy was violated thereby.
In Count 2 plaintiff claims to have been slandered by her termination. A communication is defamatory when it tends to harm the reputation of another so as to lower him in the estimation of the community. Cosgrove Studio and Camera Shop, Inc. v. Pane, 408 Pa. 314, 182 A.2d 751 (1962). However, one is not liable for a publication of defamatory matter made on a conditionally privileged occasion, absent proof of abuse of that privilege. Baird v. Dunn & Bradstreet, Inc., 446 Pa. 266, 285 A.2d 166 (1971); Beckman v. Dunn, 276 Pa. Super. 527, 419 A.2d 583 (1980).
A communication is privileged when it is made on a proper occasion, from a proper motive, in a proper manner and based upon a reasonable cause. Baird v. Dunn & Bradstreet, supra. Furthermore, the privilege exists when the circumstances lead any one of several persons having a common interest in a particular matter to believe that another sharing such common interest is entitled to know a given fact. Rankin v. Phillippe, 206 Pa. Super. 27, 211 A.2d 56 (1965).
The defamatory communication in this case is the accusation by Mr. McGowan that plaintiff had "conspired to steal" a nightgown. When this statement was made only plaintiff, McGowan and two security guards were present. Plaintiff claims that there was no reason for the security personnel to participate in the proceeding. However, one security guard was the person responsible for the initial investigation that discovered the unpaid for item, while the other escorted plaintiff out of the store. This was a privileged occasion since all present shared a common interest. See, e.g., Harbridge v. Greyhound Lines, Inc., 294 F. Supp. 1059, 1064 (E.D. Pa. 1969).
Abuse of the privilege may be found when the publication is actuated by malice or negligence, or is made for a purpose other than that for which the privilege is given, or to a person not needed to accomplish the purpose of the privilege, or contains matter not necessary to accomplish the purpose of the privilege. Beckman v. Dunn, 276 Pa. Super. at 537, 419 A.2d at 588. There are no such facts alleged.
Plaintiff also asserts that it was known throughout the store that she was being discharged for theft. However, she points to no communication published by the defendant that resulted in this common knowledge. In order for liability to exist, there must be a publication of defamatory matter. Harbridge v. Greyhound Lines, Inc., 294 F. Supp. at 1064.
Count 3 asserts a claim for false imprisonment, but plaintiff admits that the facts of this case do not support this claim.
Count 4 asserts a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Pennsylvania recognizes this cause of action where one intentionally causes severe emotional distress by conduct that goes beyond all reasonable bounds of decency. Forster v. Manchester, 410 Pa. 192, 189 A.2d 147 (1963). The conduct complained of must be so extreme and outrageous so as to be regarded as atrocious, and utterly intolerable in a civilized community. Rose v. Wissinger, 294 Pa. Super. 265, 439 A.2d 1193 (1982); Jones v. Nissenbaum, Rudolph & Seidner, 244 Pa. Super. 377, 368 A.2d 770 (1976). There are four elements necessary to this action: 1) the conduct must be extreme and outrageous; 2) the conduct must be intentional or reckless; 3) it must cause emotional distress; and 4) the distress must be severe. Chuy v. Philadelphia Eagles Football Club, 595 F.2d 1265, 1273 (3d Cir. 1979).
Plaintiff claims she was falsely charged with theft, and was humiliated, embarrassed and mocked in front of her fellow employees at the time of her discharge. It is reasonable to expect that plaintiff would feel embarrassed under the circumstances. However, no reasonable person would consider defendant's conduct outrageous. The termination was based on the discovery that plaintiff had an item in her shopping bag that had not been paid for. One permissible inference is that plaintiff was responsible for the item being in her bag. The conduct attributed to defendant in this complaint was not so extreme and outrageous to support an action for intentional infliction of emotional distress. See, Chuy v. Philadelphia Eagles Football Club, supra (team physician tells reporter that player suffered from fatal disease, knowing it to be false); Shaffer v. National Can Corp., 565 F. Supp. 909 (E.D. Pa. 1983) (retaliation for refusal of sexual advances). Furthermore, as in the Forster case, supra, there is no showing that defendant intended to cause emotional distress to plaintiff. The evidence shows that defendant had a legitimate basis for the termination, and plaintiff has asserted no facts showing another motive to cause her harm.
As alleged, defendant's conduct did not cross the threshold of decency and was not utterly intolerable in a civilized society.
For the foregoing reasons, defendant's motion for summary judgment will be granted.
AND NOW, this 27th day of June, 1985, it is hereby ORDERED that defendant's motion for summary judgment is GRANTED.
Judgment is entered in favor of defendant and against plaintiff.