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When workplace discrimination leads to emotional stress

On Behalf of | Sep 3, 2021 | Workplace Discrimination

The demands of work are common, especially in high-performance enterprises that churn out productivity and require exceptional skill and commitment from their employees. However, when job stress involves casual unwanted physical contact, derogatory remarks or insensitive behavior from a co-worker or manager, over time this can lead to psychological trauma that can become debilitating to the victim.

If a supervisor or HR representative does not take action when the employee files a complaint, this can amplify an already distressing situation. When the job becomes a source of anxiety or dread to the employee, it can cause depression, sleep deprivation and other health problems. Any reduced productivity that results may give the employer justification to fire the distressed employee.

Fighting back with an emotional distress claim

When pursuing a personal injury lawsuit for emotional distress, the law recognizes both the negligent and the intentional infliction of harm to another. The burden of proof lies with the plaintiff, who must establish the state of mind of the accused to commit the offense:

  • In a negligent infliction of emotional distress (NIED) claim, the plaintiff must show that the defendant had a duty of care to not cause emotional distress to another and that they acted negligently or willfully, which caused the plaintiff to suffer emotional distress.
  • In an intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED) claim, the injured party must prove that the defendant acted intentionally, that this action was reckless and extreme, and that it caused the injured party severe mental distress.

Risks and rewards

Emotional distress cases can be quite complex, requiring substantial medical records as well as the opinions of medical professionals and the testimony of co-workers, friends, and family, to provide a body of evidence to support a claim. A well-documented claim has a better chance of receiving a higher award for damages.

There are risks, however. Exposing the employee’s medical history or details of their personal life in a courtroom may lead to cross-witness inquiries of any previous psychological disorders or events in their personal life. The defense could point to a recent divorce, for example, as the underlying cause of the emotional distress.

For residents of Southern California, finding the best way forward means developing a sound strategy for addressing the workplace discrimination that you have suffered.


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