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Can I File A Claim Against My Employer For Emotional Distress?

Posted in Employees on February 22, 2022

The workplace can be stressful. This is particularly true for certain types of jobs or when certain types of hostile environments there exist due to discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and more. While routine stress on the job is normal, it is not okay for a worker to have to put up with an unhealthy environment for long periods of time. An overly stressful workplace can lead to feelings of stress, anxiety, depression, and other emotional and psychological distress. Here, we want to discuss whether or not you can file a claim against your employer for emotional distress damages.

What is Emotional Distress in the Workplace?

Emotional distress is often referred to as mental anguish. Sometimes, individuals call this psychological distress. For a typical personal injury claim, these types of damages are usually lumped into what is called “non-economic losses” that are more immeasurable than concrete losses such as medical bills and lost wages.

In order for an emotional distress claim to be successful in court, the emotional distress has to be severe enough that you could not reasonably be expected to endure it under normal circumstances. Typically, these claims are more likely to be successful if the emotional distress accompanies physical injuries because physical injuries are easier to quantify and see. 

However, physical injuries are not always necessary for a person to experience emotional distress. Sometimes, it may be enough for a medical or psychological professional to certify that you have a severe case of depression, anxiety, insomnia, panic attacks, suicidal thoughts, or another form of emotional distress.

How to Prove a Workplace Emotional Distress Claim

Proving emotional distress claims, particularly ones that originate from the workplace, can be challenging. In these situations, it is important to distinguish between the “negligent” infliction and intentional “infliction” of emotional distress. The difference between these two causes of emotional distress has to do with the at-fault party’s state of mind while the harmful activity was ongoing.

Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress (NIED)

If the emotional distress was the result of the negligent conduct of the employer or another party in the workplace, you may be able to recover compensation for emotional distress damages. The principle behind these claims is that the employer has a reasonable duty of care to avoid causing physical or mental injuries to their workers. In these cases, it is important to establish a few elements:

  • That the defendant engaged in negligent conduct in violation of their duty of care to the employee.
  • The victim suffered documentable mental distress
  • The defendant’s negligent conduct was a direct cause of the victim’s mental distress

Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED)

Cases of intentional infliction of emotional distress are different because the activity in question must be considered extreme, intentional, outrageous, or recklessly performed. To prove the intentional infliction of emotional distress, you will need to:

  • Prove the employer acted intentionally or recklessly
  • Prove that the employer’s conduct was extreme or outrageous
  • Show that the employer’s actions directly led to the victim’s mental distress
  • Show that the resulting mental distress is severe

Work With an Attorney

As you begin working on your emotional distress claim against your employer, we strongly encourage you to contact a Phoenix workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible. A personal injury lawyer with experience handling work injury claims will be able to fully investigate the incident and delve through the nuances of emotional distress claims to help you recover maximum compensation.