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Can I Sue My Employer for Emotional Distress?


Emotional distress is anxiety or mental distress which resulted from a saddening experience. Emotional distress can either be inflicted negligently or intentionally by the accused person. Negligent emotional distress refers to probable, and anticipated emotional consequences, without physical contact which results in physical injury. While intentional emotional distress is an act so terrible that it causes distress to the victim. Emotional distress can also be found in the workplace where an employee is treated in such a manner whether negligently or intentionally which causes him/her physical injury. As such an employee can sue for emotional distress caused by the employer. A person should try to settle the case internally before filing a suit which is more cost effective.

The first thing you should know is that emotional distress caused by a manager can still be attributed to the company because of the principle of employer’s liability which make the company responsible. If you suffered injury by your bosses actions, employer can be sued as his/her acts is attributable to the company once on in the course of employment. A person needs to prove these four requirements to be successful in an emotional distress lawsuit:

  1. the actions of the employer were intentional or reckless
  2. the employer’s conduct was extreme and outrageous,
  3. the employer’s actions caused the employee emotional distress and
  4. the emotional distress was severe as it resulted in physical injury

The actions of the employer must have taken an unreasonable risk which he/she would have foreseen that there would be some emotional distress. There is no guideline of what a court would consider extreme and outrageous behavior. However, extreme and outrageous behavior is more than annoyances, indignities, mere insults, petty oppressions, threats, or other trivialities that may bruise an employee’s self-esteem or ego. Additionally, the court does not consider the firing an employee in itself constitutes to outrageous and extreme behaviour by an employer. The court in determining what is extreme and outrageous behavior examine the employee to discover if the employee is highly sensitive and if the employer know that fact.

Where an employee purports that the emotional distress caused physical injury then there should be medical evidence of the case. The testimony of psychiatrists, psychologists, and other mental health experts are a necessity in these cases to bolster your claim. Proof that you were hospitalized, on medication, and other treatment can fulfil the requirement that the distress was severe. In Missouri and other states you must present a medical diagnosis that the event caused the emotional distress in question. But other states will accept your personal testimony of your account of emotional distress as sufficient evidence.

The submission of proof of emotional distress is important because you must establish causation that is, the actions of the employer resulted in emotional distress. Failure to prove causation will result in your claim being defeated. A recent case of emotional is where the worker was successful was in the case of Rothwell v. Nine Mile Falls School District where extreme and outrageous action was evident. Ms. Rothwell’s suffered experienced emotional distress and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of the directives from her supervisors. She did tasks which her job description did not include such as cleaning up human remains, disposing of hazardous materials, or searching for potential bombs. Additionally, Ms. Rothwell was not trained for these tasks and they should have never been carried out by her. Her employer took unreasonable risk to have her clean up the remains of a student who committed suicide which she knew. There was clear evidence in this case that her injuries were caused by the actions of her employer.

Where an individual has suffered emotional distress Workers’ Compensation is available to them if they do not sue. Worker’s Compensation is a form of insurance that is given to an employee where they have suffered injuries in the course of employment, they can be compensated in exchange that no lawsuit is brought against the employer. The difficulty is not all Workers’ Compensations awards payment for mental distress cases so it is better to sue for the damages.

Emotional distress can be caused intentionally or it can be inflicted because of negligence. For a successful case there should be proof so that it will not be defeated. You should show that the employer is to be blamed for your injuries.