Many jobs can be stressful, whether you are expected to work long hours, do not get along with your boss, or have other issues. It is normal for employees to feel routine stress, but a work environment should never be unhealthy enough to cause serious emotional distress for employees.
Sometimes, an employer will have resources to help reduce emotional distress, such as investigating complaints of abusive conduct of managers or coworkers. However, all too often, the problem goes unchecked, and employees feeling emotional distress should explore their options like suing their employer for emotional distress with an employment attorney.
If you undergo emotional distress because of another individual’s negligent or outrageous deliberate acts, you can file an employment lawsuit to recover damages. This area of the law is complicated. Before suing your employer, it’s essential to comprehend the two types of emotional distress and have a California employment attorney review your best options.
Emotional distress is either negligent or intentional. The distinction is founded on the company’s state of mind or the individual liable for conducting the destructive act. Each type of emotional distress needs evidence that particular actions did or did not happen.
If you undergo emotional distress caused by someone else’s negligent behavior, you may be able to recover for negligent infliction of emotional distress. Typically, a victorious claim will prove:
A claim for negligent infliction of emotional distress can be brought by the individual harmed by the negligent act and some bystanders who saw the incident but were not physically damaged by it.
At work, you can claim negligent infliction of emotional distress if you were nearly smashed by a piece of defective equipment, for instance. Yet, your lawsuit would likely fail if you only saw a co-worker nearly being smashed, and you were not in the “zone of danger.” If you weren’t immediately in the zone of danger, the negligent infliction of emotional distress must involve a close family member.
Intentional infliction of emotional distress is centered on extreme or outrageous conduct that is intentionally or recklessly perpetrated. Most courts demand evidence of four factual details for an emotional distress lawsuit to succeed:
There are no precise policies on what extreme and outrageous conduct is, but it can include sexual harassment or other types of workplace discrimination that are particularly harmful. Nevertheless, it must be more than “mere insults, indignities, threats, or annoyances.” It is in your best interest to hire an attorney to resolve whether the conduct you experienced was extreme and outrageous.
Humiliation, shock, and shame qualify as emotional distress. Intentional infliction of emotional distress occurs when the events would cause a reasonable individual to be incapable of dealing with the mental distress.
An employer can be legally liable for its employee’s actions when the behavior that caused the emotional distress is within the scope of the employee’s job or the employer agreed to the behavior.
Although each state has its laws, evidence of the following facts is usually needed:
In workplace claims, emotional distress often goes along with other detrimental behavior, like sexual harassment.
Often, an employee may ask for lost wages when they are discriminated against and fired; however, they may be able to sue for emotional distress as well.
Many laws prevent workplace discrimination. One major example is Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) can also be used in these types of cases.
Emotional distress usually arises, most frequently, in instances where the plaintiff experienced sexual harassment or a hostile working environment.
However, you may also gain some relief in discrimination claims that involve retaliation or the denial of a promotion.
Intentional infliction of emotional distress may include the following:
To show that you were subjected to emotional distress, you must prove that an employer’s behavior–rather than another life event–led to your suffering. To support your claim, the following steps are usually taken:
As it’s not necessary to have a psychologist or other mental health professional back your claim, you should keep as much evidence on the record as possible. This may be through emails/texts, journals, and similar recordings.
If you do have a medical professional to support your claim, this may be done through the treating psychologist, counselor, or doctor or by hiring an expert witness.
You can also present evidence of a diagnosis of anxiety or depression.
It is helpful, as well, to prove that certain medicines were prescribed to deal with the emotional upset.
What you are awarded in damages will depend on the following:
To defend themselves in a lawsuit involving emotional distress, an employer may try to show that the plaintiff’s mental anguish was caused by factors that existed outside the workplace.
If this is the case, the other party may ask for information about a plaintiff’s past medical or psychological history or bring up a painful life event such as a family death or a divorce. This evidence is gathered to show the exaggeration of a claim. Sensitive details of this type are usually used in claims requesting a higher settlement.
The right attorney can help you determine the appropriate relief for your emotional distress. Damages can be difficult to quantify, but our legal team can ensure you seek all the relief you deserve.
Some damages might cover compensation for:
In some situations, you might even seek reinstatement to a position if your employer fired you for complaining about the hostile work environment. Emotional distress cases often accompany legal action for unlawful harassment, retaliation, and more, so you want a lawyer who can address all relevant legal matters.
Employer liability for emotional distress can be complicated. If a coworker is creating an unbearable situation, your employer can be liable if the coworker does so within the scope of their employment. The law holds employers liable for the harmful conduct of employees while they are on the job.
An experienced employment attorney can help you prove that your employer knew about the employee’s conduct, knew the conduct was harming you, and failed to take necessary action to stop the conduct or provide other relief for you.
Keep the following facts in mind when you’re seeking damages for emotional distress:
If you have a legal claim involving discrimination, hostility, sexual harassment, or retaliation, you should also consider whether or not the employer’s behavior has led to emotional issues. Talking to an attorney is the best way to see where you stand and how you can proceed with an action in these matters.
So, can I sue my employer for emotional distress? Emotional distress is a claim that is hard to prove, but it’s an honest injury that can negatively impact your life and career. If you have experienced emotional distress and want to sue your employer, seek professional legal guidance from Mara Law Firm. An attorney can help you understand the laws in your state concerning emotional distress in the workplace.
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