Emotional distress is a form of anxiety that results from a traumatic experience. It can stem from either an unintentional or an intentional act by another person. In the case of experiencing emotional distress as a result of something that occurred in the workplace, it can be a tricky matter, especially if your employer is somehow responsible.

If your employer has harassed you, sexually or otherwise, discriminated against you, or has bullied you, it can feel like a hopeless situation. You don’t want to quit your job because you need the money and employment. However, your situation can take its toll on you in a big way emotionally and affect your everyday life. You may have difficulty sleeping, experience a loss of appetite, and become extremely depressed and anxious.

Can You Sue Your Employer for Emotional Distress?

You may wonder if you can sue your employer for emotional distress. If your distress is caused by the negligent or intentional acts of someone else, you may be able to file a personal injury claim to recover compensation for your damages. This is a complex legal matter because, in this situation, your injury or damages are not physical. It’s important to know what constitutes emotional distress according to the law and about the two types of emotional distress.

What are the Two Types of Emotional Distress?

Legally, there are two types of emotional distress for which you can sue. They are as follows:

  1. Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress (NIED): If your emotional distress was caused by your employer’s negligent actions or conduct, you can sue for NIED. You must prove that your employer acted negligently or in willful violation of a statutory duty and that you suffered emotional distress as a result of those actions or conduct.
  2. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED): This type of emotional distress is often referred to as “tort of outrage” because it is based on extreme or outrageous behavior that is intentional and reckless in nature. Generally, you must prove that your employer acted intentionally or recklessly; your employer’s conduct was extreme and outrageous; your employer’s actions directly caused your emotional distress and your emotional stress was severe.

Can You Sue Your Employer for the Actions of an Employee?

Sometimes, it is not the employer who was directly responsible for the emotional distress, but it may be possible to sue the employer regardless. For example, if you were harassed by a coworker and reported the conduct to your employer but they didn’t take action, your emotional stress could be attributed to the employer. Legally, your employer can be held responsible for an employee’s actions when that person acted in a manner that caused another person’s emotional distress. In order to have a successful case against your employer when an employee acted in a manner that led to your emotional distress, you must prove the following:

  • Your employer had knowledge of the conduct
  • Your employer knew the conduct of the employee was harmful
  • Your employer failed to take the appropriate steps to rectify the situation

An employer can be held legally responsible for IIED if an employee has made numerous complaints about a coworker. This applies to sexual harassment and other types of harmful conduct.

What Kind of Damages Can You Recover for Emotional Distress?

In general, it is difficult to put a price on damages for emotional distress. If your claim goes to trial, a jury will determine the amount. Certain factors will influence what you are awarded, such as the level of outrageousness of your employer’s behavior, the level of emotional distress you suffered, and if the emotional distress is ongoing or the effects are permanent.

If you have suffered emotional distress in the workplace and are considering bringing filing a lawsuit against your employer, it’s important to seek the legal guidance of an attorney, like a Milwaukee personal injury lawyer employees can trust.

Thanks to our friends and contributors from Hickey & Turim S.C. for their insight into personal injury cases.