Suing for Emotional Distress at Work: What Are the Determining Factors?

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Work-induced stress is something most employees face daily. Even though work is supposed to provide a sense of stability and financial security, it can also trigger severe anxiety. Unfortunately, sometimes this stress exceeds normal levels and turns into emotional distress, which can lead to missed workdays, alcohol and drug abuse, and even result in physical and mental health problems for the employees. 

If you experience severe emotional distress, you may have the right to sue your workplace for inflicting emotional suffering upon you. Here are the determining factors you should be aware of when filing an emotional distress lawsuit against your employer.

Types of Emotional Distress Claims

When filing an emotional distress claim, you should first understand that there are two types. You should also learn the difference between them so that you know which one you are suing your employer for. The first type is Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress. If this is the case, the employer has been unintentionally causing emotional suffering to an employee. Most jurisdictions will allow recovery of distress damages if the employee was simply within the danger zone, even if distress wasn’t personally inflicted upon them. The second type of claim is Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress. In this type of claim, the defendant purposefully or recklessly inflicted emotional trauma upon their employee. 

Examples of Emotional Trauma 

Emotional distress can exist in many ways. Courts tend to look for evidence of emotional distress or newly diagnosed mental disorders when attempting to evaluate emotional distress lawsuits. Examples of trauma that may cause someone to be eligible for a suit could be a professionally diagnosed mental health condition like anxiety or depression, damage to the employees’ reputation, sleeplessness or constant nightmares, and other signs. These emotional damages can occur due to factors such as discrimination, sexual harassment, a hostile work environment, retaliation, and wrongful termination. 

Physical Health Manifestations

Even though you might think of emotional distress as a purely mental condition, it can also manifest in physical ways. Chronic stress can cause tension to build in the body, resulting in medical conditions such as ulcers, muscle spasms, headaches, and high blood pressure. In more severe cases, prolonged exposure to severe stress can lower your immunity and increase your risk of having a heart attack or stroke, which is a prevalent case in the state of Georgia. Some Augusta workers’ compensation lawyers stress that you can receive compensation for these symptoms if they are caused by your work’s stressful conditions. In order to do so, your work’s stressful conditions cause them to prove that this condition arose from the work environment, get an independent medical exam done, and file the necessary claim for the medical treatment and therapy you need to go through to recover. 

The Four Elements of Emotional Distress Claims

In order for a court to rule an emotional distress claim in favor of the employee, four conditions typically need to be present. These elements include the fact that the employer acted recklessly or intentionally and that their conduct was extreme and outrageous. Their actions must have also caused the employee mental distress, and, finally, this distress must be severe in nature. Sometimes, even if the employer isn’t directly responsible for the distress but has knowledge of other employees causing distress at their workplace through harmful actions and does nothing to fix the situation, they can still be sued for emotional distress and lose the case. 

Evidence Needed to Prove Emotional Distress 

If you are intending to sue for emotional trauma inflicted by your workplace, you should know that courts also require concrete evidence to prove emotional distress. Examples of this concrete evidence include physical symptoms that resulted from the suffering and testimonies by others at the workplace who have either seen the emotional distress being inflicted or have also suffered from it. 

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Doctors and physiatrists can also testify on your behalf if they have medical reports to prove that your mental distress was a result of your employer’s behavior. Courts also factor in how long the distress has been going on, the severity of the incidents, and how disturbing they were when deciding whether to rule for emotional distress or not. 


If the stress you experience at work starts affecting your productivity and quality of life by negatively impacting your mental and physical health, you need to take a stand. However, you should keep in mind that there is a certain amount of stress to be expected from any job. For example, if you have a high-pressure job in the medical field, you could be less likely to win the lawsuit for emotional distress than someone who has a job that typically has low levels of stress and is suffering from severe anxiety resulting directly from their employer’s actions.

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