Can I Sue My Employer for Emotional Distress?

The question of whether an employee can sue an employer for emotional distress must be taken seriously. Dealing with stress at work is common and can often be managed, but what happens when stress levels change from normal to physically and psychologically damaging? When has an employer stepped over the line from being difficult to abusive enough to inflict emotional distress? When is it time to contact workers compensation attorneys NY relies on? Read further for answers to these questions.

Workplace Stress 

Most of us have felt degrees of workplace stress, which can be defined as negative emotional reactions, such as fear, anger, and anxiety It is not uncommon to feel anxiety when a deadline is looming on a work project, or you forget to accomplish an important task. Your might even feel angry because a coworker is behaving rudely and making it difficult to concentrate. These types of situations normally wax and wane and life goes back to normal.

Emotional Distress 

A problem can arise when an employer’s behavior in the workplace takes a different turn and appears to be intentional, resulting in traumatic psychological consequences. For example, when an employer starts calling an employee names or states that he/she won’t promote an employee because of gender, sexual preference, or body size. Other situations that can cause severe emotional distress are bullying, false imprisonment, and any conduct that threatens an employee’s physical security.

According to Workplace Fairness, a comprehensive website regarding employee rights, intentional emotional distress occurs when an employee experiences severe emotional trauma resulting from an employer’s extreme and outrageous conduct. These types of intentional conduct include:

  • Sexual harassment
  • Discrimination
  • Racial slurs
  • False imprisonment
  • Any conduct that threatens physical security

However, rudeness or obnoxiousness alone may not qualify as intentional conduct, no matter how intentional those behavior seem.

Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress 

Intentional emotional distress is commonly referred to as the “tort of outrage” because an employer gets so upset that they do something in a way that causes an employee severe trauma. While the laws regarding intentional emotional distress vary from state to state, three elements are generally universal:

  • The employer acted intentionally or recklessly
  • The employer’s conduct was extreme and outrageous
  • The conduct is the cause of severe emotional distress

When to Call a Lawyer

Workers compensation laws are in place to protect employees and to recover benefits from the results of workplace injuries, which includes cases of intentional emotional distress. If you experience any type of psychological stress from what appears to be the intentional actions of your employer, it may be time to consult with a workers compensation lawyer.

Thanks to our friends and contributors from Polsky, Shouldice and Rosen, P.C. for their insight into workers compensation practice.