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Can I Sue my Employer for Stress and Anxiety?

Founding Member of Moshes Law, P.C.
During his years of practice, Yuriy has concentrated in litigation and real estate transactions as his areas of expertise.

Can I sue my employer? When an employee may experience emotional distress at work, the employee may ask, “Can I sue for emotional distress?” Unlike bodily injuries, emotional distress injuries are more difficult to measure. Since emotional injuries, such as PTSD, depression, or anxiety, are not tangible injuries where you can easily measure the injury or what happened, they can be more difficult to pursue. However, just because they are more difficult does not mean that you cannot pursue a claim against your employer. In fact, an increasing number of states, including New York, recognize mental health and emotional claims against your employer.

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    This article shall address the grounds to sue the employer, how to go about suing for emotional damages, discuss whether you can sue your former employer for emotional distress, and discuss the importance of hiring a competent emotional distress attorney.

    Suing for Emotional Distress

    Can I sue someone for emotional distress? Can I sue a company for emotional distress? Emotional distress, also known as “mental anguish,” is a non-physical and mainly psychological injury that may be asserted in civil lawsuits. It is important to note that in most cases, suing someone for emotional distress or suing for mental distress must then result in physical injury or harm.

    There are two legal theories that can be used to sue an employer for emotional distress: intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Different elements are required for each theory, and the exact circumstances of your case will determine which theory is the most favorable for your claim.

    Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

    A claim involving intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED) requires that you show that the perpetrator intentionally or recklessly caused significant emotional distress or psychological trauma via some extreme or outrageous behavior. For an act to be considered extreme or outrageous, it must deviate from societal norms and decorum. For example, light insults or a firing in front of co-workers may not be enough to make a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. The behavior has to be more extreme. Sexual harassment and racial insults, for example, may meet this bar.

    suing for emotional distress

    Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress

    Negligent infliction of emotional distress (NIED), in contrast to IIED, does not require intentional or reckless behavior but rather a showing of negligence. NIED, moreover, often requires that the claimant show physical injury in addition to emotional trauma, although this is not always the case. You must show either that your employer behaved in a negligent way or negligently violated the law. Broadly, a showing of negligence requires evidence that the employer did not behave in a manner that a reasonable employer would.

    Can you Sue Your Employer for Emotional Distress?

    Can you sue your employer for emotional distress? Can I sue my employer for emotional distress at work? Yes. However, a worker’s compensation for emotional damages or distress only is very difficult to prove. Under New York workers compensation case law, psychological injuries only qualify for workers’ compensation benefits if they were caused by an above-average amount of stress. In other words, employees must show that they faced a greater level of stress than other employees typically face. Therefore, claims for mental stress are clearly difficult to sustain under the New York State Workers’ Compensation Law. The courts seem unwilling to allow claims based upon allegations of an increased workload, minor arguments, and disagreements. The workers’ compensation board views such allegations as part of the normal work environment.

    However, the courts clearly view certain actions by the employer and co-workers as impermissible. Furthermore, if the stress, anxiety or depression arises out of truly reprehensible actions such as racial discrimination and sexual harassment, the claim will likely be sustained, particularly if the employer did little to rectify the underlying problem.

    Accordingly, in New York, civil lawsuit for emotional distress damages are compensable if they flow from the discrimination at issue, such as the fear, anxiety, and other negative psychological consequences of suffering a particular injury, which is commonly the violation of the human rights law, both federal and state.

    Can I sue my workplace for emotional distress? What can I sue my employer for? Emotional distress damages are recoverable and such claims are a common component of a discrimination case, such as racial discrimination, gender discrimination, or sexual harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL), and the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL).

    Oftentimes, once an employee is discriminated against by their employer, emotional distress is often accompanied, in which the employee experiences anxiety, depression, and sometimes PTSD. These mental consequences are often a side effect of the discrimination and can be pursued as part of the employee’s claim for discrimination. An experienced emotional distress attorney will be able to provide you legal advice on whether you can sue for emotional distress and harassment.

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      How to Sue for Emotional Distress / How to Sue a Person for Emotional Distress

      Can I sue my job for emotional distress? Can I sue my boss for emotional distress? Yes, both your employer and your boss, individually, may have claims made against them for your emotional distress lawsuit against your employer.

      Can you sue for emotional damage? As New York courts are concerned, there are two kinds of emotional distress, intentional or negligent, which formerly are intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress. When it comes to negligent or intentional infliction, in cases of intentional infliction of emotional distress, there does not need to be bodily harm for a plaintiff to recover damages for suffering emotionally or emotional trauma.

      In most instances of negligent conduct or negligent infliction of emotional distress, however, there needs to be bodily harm in addition to emotional harm for a plaintiff to recover damages. This is called the impact rule. Accordingly, it is typically easier to recover damages for negligent infliction of emotional distress than for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Where emotional distress damages focus on the effects of suffering a particular injury, a cause of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress treats emotional suffering itself as the central injury itself from which your right to recover other damages flows.

      Technically, because bodily harm is not necessarily present in instances of intentional infliction of emotional distress, it is harder to prove; however, an experienced personal injury attorney, in either circumstance, can assemble the evidence you need to sue for emotional loss and that you suffered emotional distress.

      Questions To Ask Yourself Before Suing for Stress and Anxiety

      Pursuing any kind of lawsuit can be stressful. Suing on the grounds that someone caused you emotional distress can compound the stress and anxiety that you are already feeling. Before you sue your employer for emotional distress, it may be worth asking yourself several questions to make sure that seeking legal remedy is the right course of action for you. It may be helpful to consult the advice of a seasoned lawyer as you think through these questions and consider your options. It is crucial that you consult not just any emotional distress lawyer, but emotional distress lawyers that have a lot of experience handling cases similar to yours.

      Do I have grounds to sue my employer?

      One of the most important questions to ask yourself is whether you have an actionable legal claim for emotional distress. Your employer’s actions may have caused you stress, anxiety, and possibly trauma, but in the context of a lawsuit, the impact of your employer’s actions is only one aspect of the case. 

      As discussed in the previous sections, cases involving IIED and NIED have multiple elements, some having to do with the employer’s mental state at the time of perpetrating the action. In addition to discussing how to sue an employer for emotional distress, it may be important to discuss with a lawyer or other expert whether you have strong grounds to sue your employer based on their infliction of emotional distress. 

      Are you emotionally strong enough to handle the stress of a lawsuit?

      Lawsuits are stressful and emotionally taxing. You will want to ask yourself if you are, at the moment, mentally able to handle the often intense stress of initiating an emotional distress lawsuit against your employer. Lawsuits of this nature may demand that you re-experience certain uncomfortable or distressing moments that gave rise to your experience of mental anguish in the workplace, or that you reveal private facts relevant to the case. 

      suing for emotional distress

      If you want to wait a bit before initiating a lawsuit because you feel that you will not be able to emotionally stomach any sort of legal action, you will want to consider the statute of limitations for claims of emotional distress. In New York, the statute of limitations for IIED is one year after the relevant act, and for NIED, the statute of limitations is 3 years following the incident.    

      Are you clear about what you really want out of your lawsuit?

      As with anything, it’s important that you are clear about your goals. Before initiating a lawsuit, you will want to think about what you really want out of the lawsuit. It may be the case that you are hoping to recover damages for the emotional or physical injuries you suffered, or it may be the case that you are just looking for some sort of resolution to a difficult situation in the workplace. 

      Before making a stress claim against an employer and expending the funds required to make a lawsuit, it may be worth approaching your employer and reaching a resolution not involving the legal process. If you need advice, an experienced attorney can help you decide whether a lawsuit is right for the goals that you have.    

      Are you still working for the employer you want to sue?

      If you are still working for the employer you plan on suing, initiating a lawsuit against that employer will inevitably cause some awkwardness and discomfort in the workplace. Before suing your employer, you will want to think about whether you are able to handle that kind of discomfort. It is important to note, however, that your employer cannot legally fire you for taking legal action against them. Under New York law, employers cannot terminate employees for retaliating against them or for reporting illegal actions on part of the employer.

      Have you discussed the situation or incident with HR or an administrative body at your workplace?

      As mentioned, lawsuits are emotionally and financially demanding. Before expending the great deal of effort required in initiating a lawsuit, you should always consider other remedies and options. If your workplace has a human resources department or an administrative body that deals with interpersonal or relational difficulties in the workplace, you may want to consult a group at your workplace that can help you find a resolution. Even if they are not able to resolve the situation completely, they may be able to point you to the right avenues. Of course, an experienced mental distress lawyer can also help you consider your options and provide pointers. 

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        Do you have any information that you want to keep private, and are you ok with potentially having to share that information in the course of a lawsuit?

        Lawsuits and the evidence collection process involved may require that you divulge uncomfortable information about yourself. When you sue for mental anguish, it is not only the employer that is investigated. In a lawsuit, the claimant (you) will have to be open about the facts relevant to the case. If you have any secrets relevant to your employment, they may be revealed to those investigating your case or even to the court if relevant to your claim. You will want to think carefully about whether there is any information that you want to keep private and whether the risk of having those secrets exposed is warranted by the legal remedy you are seeking. 

        In order to establish a tort in New York, the plaintiff must prove all of the following conditions:

        • Extreme and outrageous conduct;
        • Intent to cause severe emotional distress if pursuing intentional emotional distress;
        • A causal connection between the conduct and the injury; and
        • Severe emotional distress.

        Emotional distress awards in New York are generally grouped into three categories: “garden-variety,”“significant” and “egregious.” In a claim for emotional distress that is “garden variety,” the evidence of mental suffering is usually limited to plaintiff’s testimony. With garden variety claims, there is typically no mental health care treatment.

        In cases involving “significant” emotional distress, these claims “are based on more substantial harm or more offensive conduct, are sometimes supported by medical testimony and evidence, evidence of treatment by a healthcare professional and/or medication, and testimony from other, corroborating witnesses.”

        Finally,“egregious” emotional distress claims “generally involve either ‘outrageous or shocking’ discriminatory conduct or a significant impact on the physical health of the plaintiff.”
        Emotional distress can be associated with feelings of humiliation/shame, insomnia, depression, self-destructive thoughts, anxiety, stress, or another emotional response resulting from a traumatic event, such as harassment or discrimination.

        An experienced emotional distress attorney will be able to provide you legal advice on whether you can sue for emotional distress and harassment.

        How Much Can I Sue For Emotional Distress?

        How much can you sue for emotional distress? The amount you can sue for depends on your pain and suffering. Since most instances where one suffers emotional distress require some form of showing of bodily harm, the easiest way to show the impact the plaintiff suffers is through medical treatment and medical bills. Accordingly, the more medical treatment and bills one has toward their bodily harm, the higher their settlement.

        Another factor to show how much you can sue for emotional distress is lost wages

        Another factor to show how much you can sue for emotional distress is permanent disability.

        Whether the plaintiff suffered negligently or intentionally inflicted, only an experienced emotional distress lawyer should analyze your claim, and not just another personal injury attorney. You’ll need a personal injury lawyer who is familiar with the types of emotional distress, have effectively tried emotional distress claims, and who know how to sue for emotional distress.

        What is a Common Example of Suing Employers for Emotional Distress?

        What are some of the more common emotional distress examples? One of the most common examples of emotional distress damages and being able to sue employer for emotional distress is via the sexual harassment caused by the employer, and the emotional distress that comes about as a result of that. For example, should your boss use his status as your supervisor in order to try to date you, you then have a potential workplace emotional distress lawsuit and may have grounds for suing for mental stress due to the mental distress that you would experience as a result of such coercion.

        Another example of emotional distress damages in employment cases may occur should your boss discriminate against you due to your race, gender, or age. Can I sue for emotional damages? In such a circumstance, you would definitely have grounds to do so.

        An experienced emotional distress attorney will be able to provide you legal advice on whether you can sue for emotional distress and harassment.

        the Law Office of Yuriy Moshes

        Can you sue for emotional distress? Can I sue my employer for harassment? Can you sue a company for emotional distress? Yes. A qualified emotional distress lawyer from the Law Office of Yuriy Moshes will have the expertise and legal knowledge to best analyze your mental anguish circumstance and how best to recover for your emotional injuries. We represent injured parties in the New York City area including all its boroughs (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island) as well as Northern New Jersey, Long Island, and Upstate New York.

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