My Boss Caused Me Stress and Anxiety. Can I Sue?

In most cases, an individual most likely is unable to sue his or her employer for workplace stress and anxiety. However, if the employee’s stress and anxiety were caused by a violation of state and/or federal rights by the employer, then the employee may be able to file a lawsuit. Otherwise, any workplace injury (including from stress and anxiety) must be handled through the California’s workers’ compensation system.

Can I Sue My Employer for Stress and Anxiety?

stress and anxiety For most people, stress is a natural part of their job. In fact, according to a recent Gallup poll, workers in the United States experience some of the highest levels of workplace stress, with 57% of Americans reporting high levels of daily stress at their jobs. This area of law is complex, and each case is different. If you believe that your employer has caused you stress and anxiety by violating your rights, a Los Angeles employment attorney can help you determine if you may file a lawsuit. Contact Odell Law today to schedule a free consultation about your emotional distress claim.

What Is Emotional Distress?

Emotional distress is a legal term that describes a range of harms that a person may experience as a result of another person’s negligent or intentional conduct. It may include:
  • A diagnosed psychiatric condition (such as depression or anxiety);
  • Sleeplessness;
  • Strained relationships with friends and family;
  • Loss of enjoyment of life; and/or
  • Mental anguish.
In the employment law context, emotional distress is not just the everyday stress and anxiety that you might experience at work. It must be connected to a wrongful action by your employer, such as racial discrimination, sexual harassment, or any other violation of your rights. Otherwise, if you experience harm from workplace stress and anxiety, you may be limited to filing a claim for workers’ compensation.

For Example:

Carolyn works as an occupational therapist. Her immediate supervisor is incredibly difficult and often schedules too many patients for Carolyn to attend to. Her supervisor is also incredibly negative, and is always harping on Carolyn about her paperwork and minor errors. Carolyn finds that she is losing sleep at night and is eventually diagnosed with depression because of her work. Here, because Carolyn was not harassed or discriminated against, she most likely may not sue her employer for her stress and anxiety, but may be able to file a workers’ compensation claim. However, if Carolyn’s supervisor only treats Carolyn badly and constantly makes comments about how Carolyn should be able to take on the extra work because she is not married and does not have kids, Carolyn might be able to sue for emotional distress in a workplace discrimination and harassment lawsuit.

How to Sue for Workplace Stress in California

Suing an employer for workplace stress may be challenging. Most often, it is included as part of a lawsuit that alleges illegal behavior on the part of the company. These claims often involve a range of damages (losses), including lost wages, back pay, front pay, lost benefits, and emotional distress.  There are two types of emotional distress claims: intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Intentional infliction of emotional distress involves either intentional or grossly reckless extreme and outrageous conduct. By contrast, negligent infliction of emotional distress claim involves allegations that an employer failed to act with reasonable care, causing or allowing emotional distress to occur. To prevail on a case involving emotional distress, you will first need to prove that your employer violated the law in some way – such as by creating a hostile work environment or by retaliating against you. You will then need to demonstrate that this unlawful conduct resulted in emotional injuries. Specifically, you will need to show that your employer either intentionally or negligently inflicted emotional distress on you because of their illegal behavior. If the case goes to trial, the damages (compensation) that you will receive will be determined by a jury. Unlike damages for lost wages, it may be difficult to calculate an exact dollar amount for emotional distress. However, your attorney may give you a ballpark estimate of the value of your emotional distress damages based on their experience with similar cases. The Bottom Line: Although these cases are often challenging, it is possible to sue your employer for emotional distress depending on your claims. It is vital to work with a skilled employment attorney who understands California law on emotional distress claims. If you were terminated and suffered emotional distress as a resultreach out to a Southern California employment lawyer to learn more about your rights. You can reach us at, filling out the form below or giving us a call at (949) 833-7106.

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