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Can You Sue for High Levels of Anxiety and Stress in the Workplace?

Published on May 28, 2020 at 2:50 pm in Employment Law.

Person on laptop with head in hands

Having a job can sometimes provide a sense of financial security and stability in your life. When that job causes more anxiety than comfort, though, your work environment could qualify as causing you emotional distress. In fact, over 65% of workers say that workplace stress has caused difficulty in their lives. That difficulty could lessen productivity and increase missing work, alcohol or substance abuse, and physical and mental health problems, according to the American Institute of Stress (AIS).

When your mental or physical health is being negatively impacted by work, you could potentially sue your employer for emotional distress. A Little Rock employment lawyer will be your best asset against your employer because they can expertly guide you through the legal process and most effectively present your case. Let’s look at some of the specifics when it comes to suing for high levels of anxiety and stress in the workplace.

Suing for Emotional Distress in the Workplace

Jobs inherently come with different levels of stress and pressure depending on your profession. Before filing an employment claim, you have to consider the amount of stress that is expected with that job. If you have a high-stakes, high-pressure job, the threshold for emotional distress is probably higher for your job. For example, if you’re a nurse, your job is understood to be high-stress because you have strict time schedules and are caring for patients. But if something else in the workplace is causing your stress, more than just your work, then you might have a case.

In the past, a worker would only be able to recover damages for emotional distress in the workplace if physical injuries occurred. But now, employees in many states can sue solely based on emotional distress. While your emotional distress still might be from physical harm, like sexual assault, you could also be stressed from emotional harm, like discrimination. Thankfully, through the EEOC, you’re covered for both.

When it comes to emotional distress, there are two categories that you can sue an employer for:

  • Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress (NIED). With this type of emotional distress, you could sue if your employer acted negligently or violated the duty of care to not cause severe emotional stress in the workplace. For example, if you work in an industrial plant, and you are placed in danger of injury, even if you don’t get injured, you can still sustain severe stress from being in the “zone of danger.”
  • Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED). This category can only be cited if you can prove that your employer acted intentionally or recklessly to cause you stress. Usually, their behavior must be outrageous, which is why this is called “tort of outrage.” For example, if an employee is sexually harassed by their employer, the actions would be reckless and outrageous, and the emotional distress they caused would be classified as intentional.

When Emotional Distress Turns Physical

Although we’re talking about emotional distress, it’s important to contemplate the physical effects that can happen as well. When your mind is subjected to high stress and anxiety, those feelings can manifest in physical ways in your body. The American Psychological Association (APA) reports that chronic stress can affect the body in a few ways. When tension builds from stress, you might see these physical symptoms in your body:

  • Muscle tension
  • Headaches
  • Hyperventilation
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Pain
  • Nausea
  • Lowered immunity
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke

All of these side effects on your physical health can just increase the toll that stress has on your mental health. When these two combine, working and daily life can become even more difficult. That’s why hiring an employment lawyer can be so helpful in your case. They will be able to handle the legal side of things for you while you focus on your emotional and physical recovery.

At McMath Woods, P.A., we know how daunting an employment law claim can seem. Our Little Rock employment attorney will expertly navigate your tense situation at work and ensure that you receive justice for the hardships you faced at the hand of your employer. This process might be complicated, but you can feel at peace with your case in our hands. Contact our office today so we can talk about your legal options and plan a course of action.

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