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Can You Sue for Emotional Distress?

Your questions about workers’ rights, answered

Workplace Discrimination

In the workplace, emotional distress means the mental harm caused by a hostile work environment. Under the law, you can receive emotional distress damages to compensate for pain and suffering.

If you’ve struggled at work, you might wonder “Can I sue my employer for stress and anxiety?” or “How much can I sue for emotional distress?”

Our FAQ answers your emotional distress questions.

Want to know more? Check out our Guide to Suing for Emotional Distress.

What is emotional distress?

Emotional distress covers any mental stress or anxiety. But in a legal sense, it means emotional damage related to illegal workplace behavior. 

Emotional distress examples include:

  • Anxiety about going to work in a hostile environment
  • Stress over damage to your reputation because of discrimination or harassment
  • Emotional breakdowns because of toxic conditions at work
  • Loss of sleep and mental anguish due to work

If you reached out to a medical provider or therapist because workplace conditions affected your mental health, that may also qualify as emotional distress.

Can you sue for emotional distress?

Can you sue your employer for emotional distress? Yes, you can file an emotional distress lawsuit. If a supervisor caused emotional distress or a co-worker recklessly or intentionally inflicted emotional distress, you may have a case.

Some workplaces are more stressful than others. But not every situation meets the legal definition for emotional distress. If you’re wondering “Can I sue for emotional distress?” start by asking a few questions.

  • Is your emotional distress because of workplace violations?
  • Did you witness or experience discrimination, harassment, or a hostile work environment?
  • Did a supervisor illegally target you or a coworker?
  • Did a coworker violate your rights with offensive or harmful behavior?

If these emotional distress examples sound familiar, contact an employment lawyer for a free consultation to learn whether you can file a lawsuit.

Can I sue my employer for stress and anxiety?

You can only sue your employer if your stress and anxiety meets the legal definition of emotional distress. For example, you may be able to sue your employer for stress caused by discrimination, sexual harassment, or retaliation.

If you file a lawsuit after your employer violates your rights, you can request emotional distress compensation as part of the settlement, which can compensate you for stress or other emotional distress.

What is an emotional distress lawsuit about?

An emotional distress lawsuit is a type of employment lawsuit. In these lawsuits, employees can request compensation for their emotional distress. However, you have to provide evidence of an employment violation and emotional distress.

For example, victims of retaliation, a hostile work environment, or harassment can receive monetary compensation for their pain and suffering.

An employment lawyer can help you file an emotional distress lawsuit.

Can I sue for mental anguish?

Yes, you can file an employment lawsuit for mental anguish. You can only sue for mental anguish if your employer’s illegal activities caused the mental anguish. 

For example, if your employer fired you for complaining about wage theft, you can file a lawsuit requesting compensation for your mental anguish.

Bringing supporting documentation from a doctor or therapist can help prove your case.

Can you sue for pain and suffering?

Yes, you can file an employment lawsuit for pain and suffering. If your employer violated your rights, you may legally recover money to compensate for emotional distress.

For example, if you resisted your supervisor’s sexual advances and he fired you, you can sue for retaliation, sexual harassment, and pain and suffering.

Can you sue someone for emotional pain and suffering?

Yes, you can sue a supervisor or employer for emotional pain and suffering caused by their illegal actions.

For example, if a supervisor pressures you with sexual advances and fires you for rejecting them, you can file a suit for retaliation and ask for monetary compensation for your emotional pain and suffering.

What kind of damages is emotional distress?

Emotional distress damages compensate an employee for the pain and suffering caused by illegal employer actions. For example, employees may suffer from anxiety because of workplace sexual harassment or a hostile work environment. Victims of retaliation may also receive emotional distress damages.

Courts determine how to quantify emotional distress damages. They take into account factors like the severity of the harm and the strength of the evidence.

How do you prove emotional distress?

After experiencing trauma at work, you might wonder how to prove emotional distress. Courts want specific evidence to determine the emotional distress damages. Here’s what qualifies as good evidence.

You can prove pain and suffering by keeping a log of the workplace violation and your mental anguish. During a lawsuit, you can testify about the emotional harm you’ve experienced. Coworkers, friends, and family members can also act as witnesses.

Written proof can strengthen your case. Letters, texts, emails, and documents from a mental health professional can prove emotional distress. So can a diagnosis of depression or anxiety. 

An employment lawyer can help you build the strongest case for pain and suffering.

Learn more about how to prove emotional distress in our Guide to Suing for Emotional Distress.

How do you calculate pain and suffering?

 In an employment law case, juries decide how to calculate damages for emotional distress. They award pain and suffering based on the specifics of the case. These jury awards take into consideration the severity of the emotional distress, medical records or documentation of pain and suffering, and testimony presented during the case.

Many employment lawsuits settle outside of court. In these cases, your employment lawyer can negotiate a settlement with your employer to cover pain and suffering. Employment lawyers have methods for how to calculate damages for emotional distress.

Pain and suffering is difficult to quantify. If you’re curious about how to quantify emotional distress damages, an employment lawyer can provide additional information.

What can you do about emotional distress at work?

If you’ve experienced emotional distress at work, contact an employment lawyer for a consultation.  

In New York, Charles Joseph offers free, confidential consultations to victims of hostile work environments, discrimination, and other workplace violations that cause emotional distress. Charles Joseph brings over two decades of experience as an employment lawyer and founder of Joseph & Kirschenbaum, a firm that has recovered over $140 million for clients.

Read more about emotional distress damages and how to file a lawsuit.

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