Can I Sue My Employer for Stress and Anxiety?

can i sue my employer for stress

Employees experiencing workplace emotional distress often wonder, Can I sue my employer for stress and anxiety? The answer is relatively straightforward. Most professions come with job-related stress, causing varying degrees of anxiety.

So feeling some level of stress and anxiety at work is expected. However, there are situations where unreasonable work environments can cause extreme amounts of emotional distress that may give rise to a legal cause of action.

Essentially, an employee cannot sue because they experience normal stress and anxiety inherent in everyday work life. However, when workplace discrimination, harassment, retaliation, or other unlawful or unreasonable workplace behaviors cause extreme emotional distress no reasonable person can endure, an employee may be able to sue.

 If you’ve been asking yourself, Can I sue my employer for stress and anxiety?, keep reading to learn more about when workplace stress amounts to an actionable offense and the damages you may be entitled to.

When Can I File an Emotional Distress at Work Lawsuit?  

An utterly stress-free work environment is an ideal we’d all love to achieve; unfortunately, it’s not a reality. All employees encounter some stress and anxiety in their job roles.

However, in extreme cases, unacceptable behaviors like harassment, discrimination, and unfair practices can amplify the emotional stress employees normally experience at work. Examples of workplace behaviors that could lead to legal claims include:

  • Discriminatory treatment—if an employee feels targeted based on race, gender, age, or other protected characteristics, leading to undue emotional stress and anxiety, this could form the basis for a discrimination claim;
  • Sexual harassment—for example, career advancements that are contingent upon granting sexual favors or where refusal leads to punishment can significantly heighten stress levels and are often grounds for legal action;
  • Unrealistic performance demands—when employers set job expectations that are unreasonable or unattainably high, leading to a constant fear of disciplinary action or job loss, the resulting emotional distress and anxiety may justify legal intervention;
  • Workplace bullying—persistent, unwarranted aggressive behavior by colleagues or superiors can lead to a toxic work environment, contributing to severe stress and potential health issues, and might warrant legal consideration; and
  • Lack of disability accommodations—employers failing to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities, leading to increased stress and difficulty performing job duties, can also trigger legal claims.

It's also important to note that to be actionable, typically, emotional distress must be severe enough that no reasonable person could endure it and must last for an extended period.

Unsure whether you have a claim? An employment attorney at Starpoint Law, LC, can help you understand your rights and determine the most appropriate response. Our experienced advocates can also help you determine the type of lawsuit to file and any associated damages you can recover.

What Kinds of Emotional Distress Damages for Stress and Anxiety Can I Recover?

The damages you can recover for extreme emotional distress depend on their causes and claim types. Depending on your situation, you may have a claim for Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED), harassment, discrimination, retaliation, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) violations, and others. Here are several of the most common forms employees recover.

Damages for IIED

When it comes to emotional distress damages in California, the law can provide recovery for a cause of action called Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED), which is a negligence claim.

To collect IIED damages, you must show that your employer exhibited negligent conduct and that you suffered serious emotional distress because of it. To successfully prove negligence in an IIED claim, you must show:

  • Breach of duty—your employer had a duty to provide a safe and healthy work environment but failed to do so due to negligence or intentional actions;
  • Causation—there must be a direct link between your employer's actions or negligence and your emotional distress; and
  • Severity of harm—the stress and anxiety you experienced must be significant enough to warrant legal action and measurable damages.

If successful in proving your case, you may be entitled to various economic and non-economic legal remedies, including compensation for emotional distress damages, reimbursement for medical expenses, lost wages, and punitive damages in cases of egregious employer misconduct.

Other Damages

If your extreme stress and anxiety resulted from workplace harassment, retaliation, discrimination, or disability rights violations, you may choose to file a claim with the California Civil Rights Department or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

You can work with a skilled employment law attorney to file these claims under the California Fair Housing and Employment Act (FHEA), Title VII of The Civil Rights Act, or the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Like with IIED, in all these cases, if your claim is successful, you may be entitled to:

  • Economic damages—these are the tangible losses you suffer, such as lost wages, lost benefits, or out-of-pocket expenses related to discrimination, harassment, or retaliation;
  • Noneconomic damages—these are intangible losses you suffer, such as emotional distress, humiliation, or damage to your reputation;
  • Punitive damages—these are damages intended to punish the employer for particularly egregious conduct and to deter similar conduct in the future; and
  • Attorneys’ fees and costs—if you prevail in a discrimination, harassment, retaliation, or ADA claim, you may be entitled to recover your attorneys’ fees and costs incurred in pursuing the claim.

If you are unsure of the type of claim you have or what your damages are or are worth, an experienced advocate at Starpoint Law can walk you through your rights and options.

Considering Suing Your Employer for Stress and Anxiety? Starpoint Law, LC Can Help

If you’re suffering from extreme stress and anxiety stemming from your employer’s unreasonable or unlawful behavior, Starpoint Law will fight tirelessly for a just resolution—one that holds your employer accountable. Our firm only accepts cases we are confident we can win.

Moreover, our dedication and hard work have secured over $11 million in settlements and verdicts. Contact us today. We understand your unique needs and concerns and offer complimentary consultations to discuss them. First and foremost, we take pride in providing clients with empathetic, hard-hitting, first-class service they can count on.

Author Photo

Aidin Ghavimi

Aidin is a partner at Starpoint LC, Attorneys at Law, and focuses on personal injury and employment law cases in and around Southern California. He earned his Juris Doctorate from the Loyola School of Law and his Bachelor’s from USC. Aidin’s primary goal is to bring justice to his clients and to ensure they are able to move on with their lives after a serious injury.

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