Can I Sue My Employer for Emotional Distress?
The California Labor Law Employment Attorneys Group is here to ensure that you know your rights and represent you if you wish to take action against your employer and get compensated for the damages they have caused you. We help people like you who have suffered emotional distress at work because of an employer and help answer questions regarding their employment and any action they can take against their former (or current) employer. Examples of such questions include:
- Can you sue your employer for emotional distress?
- Can you sue a company for mental anguish? Do you need a lawyer for this?
- Can I sue my employer for mental stress?
- Can I sue my boss for causing me emotional distress?
- I suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, because of a hostile work environment. I need a lawyer to sue my employer. Who is the best lawyer for this?
- I have post-traumatic stress disorder because of something that happened at work. Can I file a lawsuit against my employer? I need the best attorney for this. How do I find that?
Emotional distress can be detrimental to your emotional and mental health. If your employer has made you suffer emotional distress, they may have violated the law and gives the right to file a lawsuit against them. In such cases, it is important that you speak with a lawyer to see if you can sue your employer for the stress the you have suffered. It is equally important to speak to the right attorney, an attorney who specializes in employment law with lots of experience in this area.
Employers are required to keep the workplace a safe space for every single employee under their roof. Many laws have been put into place in order to help create such a space for all employees across the nation. Many anti-discrimination laws were written and signed into law in order to provide such safe spaces. The Americans with Disabilities Act, for example, does not allow employers to discriminate against people with disabilities. Unfortunately, this law does not deter all employers who may have biases and act based on those personal prejudices towards people with disabilities. When employers act and act against an employee’s rights, it can cause the employee to undergo emotional distress. In the instance of the employer violating the ADA, an employee can sue because their employer disregarded the law and demand emotional distress compensation.
But unlike physical injuries in which an X-ray or MRI can easily display the damage done to an employee, emotional distress and PTSD lies within and is not as easy to prove. Here’s what you need to know if you believe that you have suffered emotional distress because of your employer.
What Is Emotional Distress?
Emotional Distress is the state that occurs after being subjected to extreme physical or mental harm. A person who is dealing with emotional distress may express their emotional distress in more ways than one. The ways in which a person may experience suffering include, but are not limited to, anxiety, depression, panic attacks, an impending guilt, and even suicidal thoughts. Indeed, emotional distress is not a walk in the park and can lead to severe consequences if not dealt with properly.
But because these are mental afflictions, they are not as easy to prove as physical damages, like a broken arm or a gash on the leg. Proving an emotional distress claim requires a little more.
The emotional distress may be so severe, in some cases that it changes from merely being emotional distress to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Post-traumatic stress disorder was first seen and truly observed and diagnosed through war veterans (primarily of the World Wars) who experienced things that no man should ever see. But post-traumatic stress disorder is not exclusive to war veterans – PTSD can occur to anyone. People who have post-traumatic stress disorder continue to experience the thought or feelings they had even after the traumatic event has ended, sometimes even years after. They may have flashbacks, nightmares; they may feel the sadness, anger, or fear from the day of the occurrence; they may not feel welcomed, detached, and lonely from other people. People who have PTSD may also avoid situations that trigger any negative emotions of the traumatic event. For example, if you nearly died because of a workplace safety misconduct, you may never want to go near that factory ever again because of the severe and negative emotions your brain associates with that place.
How Do I Prove an Emotional Distress Claim?
In order to prove an emotional distress claim, you must either prove that it was caused by negligence or intentionally inflicted. The difference between negligence and intentionally is the state of mind of the employer that performed the harmful act. Every kind of emotional distress requires proof that acts occurred and did not occur.
Proving Emotional Distress Through Negligence
Emotional distress is not always purposeful or malicious. But still, even without malice intent, the effects of negligence can lead to emotional distress. Negligence often occurs when an employer fails to use reasonable safety standards in order to avoid causing emotional distress. This can be through a policy of what can/cannot be said in the workplace or safety standards when handling heavy equipment or dangerous chemicals.
Let’s say, for example, you were operating heavy machinery but it was not properly maintained by your employer. The heavy equipment malfunctions and severely injures or even kills one of your fellow employees. You know that if the equipment had been properly maintained your coworker would still be alive, but you have this empty and growing guilt and blame yourself. This is emotional distress and may give you the grounds to file a lawsuit against your employer. A successful Negligence claim must be able to prove the items listed below:
- Your employer’s negligence was the cause of emotional distress;
- Your employer did not maintain a reasonably safe workplace, and willfully violated statutory duty;
- You (or your coworker) suffered from emotional distress because of your employer’s negligence.
Proving Emotional Distress Through Intentional Infliction
Despite the countless laws that exist in order to protect employees from employer-based actions, some employers still act through the biases they have reinforced throughout their lives. Intentional emotional distress is based on the extreme or ridiculously outrageous behavior that is performed directly at an employee intentionally or recklessly. One of the most common forms of intentional infliction of emotional distress is through employer to employee discrimination.
For instance, let’s assume that you are a woman. You go to work every day and perform excellently. Despite your overwhelmingly positive performance, your employer still subjects you to unfavorable behavior. One day, he decides to fire you despite there being underwhelming employees who happen to all be men. This discrimination may cause you to suffer emotional distress, and gives you the right to not only file for sex discrimination but also for emotional distress.
In order to prove intentional infliction of emotional distress, you must be able to prove four (4) factual elements:
- The emotional distress was severe;
- The employer intentionally acted recklessly;
- The employer conduct was uncalled for, extreme, and outrageous;
- The actions of your employer caused you, the employee, mental distress.
How Do I File an Emotional Distress Claim Against My Employer?
In the state of California, you are protected under both federal and state laws, which requires employers to maintain a certain level of safety standard, and not be negligent and keep unsafe working conditions. There is no one law which states emotional distress is a condition over which an employee can sue, rather, there are many laws which include emotional distress as a condition over which damages can be compensated. One person may file a lawsuit because they faced discrimination, another may file because of a workplace injury, and another may file because of a workplace harassment.
Emotional distress can be a fairly difficult thing to prove as, in most cases, there is no physical evidence of the harm. This is why it is crucial that you contact a California employment lawyer, so they can help you gather evidence and strengthen your case against your employer. For more information, please contact our Los Angeles attorneys. Our main offices are in Los Angeles but we handle cases across the entire state of California.
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