In all fifty states, employment discrimination, employer harassment, employer retaliation, and maintaining a hostile work environment are against the law. If you’ve been a victim of wrongful termination in California, for example, you can be reinstated at your job and receive back pay.

But if a California employer has treated you illegally, can you be compensated for the emotional distress and damages that have been caused by what you’ve suffered at work? Can an Oakland employment lawyer help you sue an employer in the state of California for emotional distress?

CAN EMPLOYEES SUE FOR EMOTIONAL DISTRESS?

In California, if you have been a target of employer discrimination, harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination, or a hostile work environment, and if you take legal action against that employer, you may also sue the employer for your related emotional distress.

State and federal employment laws in the U.S. recognize two types of employment-related emotional distress:

– intentional infliction of emotional distress
– negligent infliction of emotional distress

WHAT IS THE INTENTIONAL INFLICTION OF EMOTIONAL DISTRESS?

If a boss or a colleague recklessly or intentionally makes you the victim of illegal behavior, you may be able to file a claim for the intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Oakland Courtroom

A successful claim for the intentional infliction of emotional distress by an employer must prove that:

– The employer (or boss or colleague) engaged in intentional or reckless illegal behavior.
– The behavior caused the plaintiff to experience severe emotional distress.

WHAT IS THE NEGLIGENT INFLICTION OF EMOTIONAL DISTRESS?

If an employer fails to use reasonable care to avoid causing emotional distress, you may be able to file a claim for the negligent infliction of emotional distress.

A successful claim for the negligent infliction of emotional distress by an employer must prove that:

– The employer engaged in negligent conduct or negligently violated the law.
– You suffered emotional distress as a result of the employer’s negligent behavior.

Anyone who has been victimized – intentionally or otherwise – by employer discrimination, harassment, retaliation, or wrongful termination knows emotional distress can be overwhelming. Ongoing mistreatment at your job can take a significant emotional and psychological toll.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF EMOTIONAL DISTRESS?

An employee’s emotional distress can surface in a variety of unpredictable ways. Emotional distress victims may have difficulty sleeping, experience a loss of appetite, suddenly gain or lose substantial weight, and may express a number of other physical symptoms of emotional distress.

Woman In Distress

Emotional distress can also surface psychologically. Victims may have strained relationships with family members and friends. They may lose their vitality and the ability to enjoy life.

If you choose to take legal action against a California employer, conveying the reality of your job-related emotional distress to jurors with no experience of job-related emotional distress can be a genuine challenge.

WHEN SHOULD YOU SPEAK TO AN EMPLOYMENT RIGHTS LAW FIRM IN CALIFORNIA?

That’s why you must be advised and represented by an experienced Oakland employment rights attorney – at once – if you are dealing with an employer’s illegal behavior and the emotional distress that can be a consequence of that behavior.

How can emotional distress be demonstrated to a jury – or in a settlement negotiation? Seeking therapy is one way to strengthen your claim, but don’t look at therapy solely as a “legal tactic.” Many of the plaintiffs who suffer job-related emotional distress genuinely benefit from therapy.

CAN AN EXPERT WITNESS HELP YOU?

Your attorney may also ask a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist to act as an expert witness on your behalf and answer questions in a deposition or testify at a trial. An expert witness can link a plaintiff’s emotional distress to the employer’s illegal conduct and illegal workplace conditions.

Employment Attorney

An expert gives credibility to a plaintiff’s personal testimony. Jurors may be sympathetic to a plaintiff explaining his or her symptoms of emotional distress – headaches, chronic tension, and sleep disorders – but an expert witness can support and add authority to that plaintiff’s testimony.

Another way to help your case is to produce witnesses who can verify that you have suffered emotional distress. These witnesses might include a close friend that you’ve confided in or a co-worker who has witnessed the abuse or discrimination that you suffered at your place of work.

Whether your claim is resolved through an out-of-court negotiation or at a jury trial in civil court, evidence such as your medical records and the testimony of key witnesses will be critical to the success of your claim.

WHAT DAMAGES CAN EMOTIONAL DISTRESS VICTIMS RECEIVE?

Damages for emotional distress may include compensation for your counseling costs, treatment costs, and the costs of your prescription medications. In fact, if your claim against your employer prevails, damages for emotional distress may be the largest part of your settlement or verdict.

Overwhelmingly, the majority of employment-related claims in this state are resolved privately, and outside of the courtroom, so many of the victims of discrimination, harassment, wrongful termination, or retaliation by employers do not even have to make a courtroom appearance.

Generally speaking, California does not cap compensatory damages – including the damages for emotional distress – in an employment-related civil trial. Except in medical malpractice cases, any amount of compensation that is deemed reasonable and fair may be awarded at trial.

HOW CAN AN EMPLOYMENT RIGHTS ATTORNEY IN OAKLAND HELP YOU?

When emotional distress disrupts your life and work, you must act. If your employer has caused you to suffer emotional distress, it is crucial to speak immediately with an experienced employment rights attorney regarding your employment rights and your legal options.

An employment rights lawyer will explain your rights and will determine if you have sufficient grounds to bring legal action against your employer.

Sue For Distress

If you move forward with legal action, your employment attorney will help you gather evidence, will negotiate aggressively on your behalf, and if necessary, will take your case to trial and ask a jury for the compensation – and for the justice – that you need and deserve.

If you are struggling with job-related emotional distress, seek counseling, stay active, continue to pursue your normal routines and activities, and speak at once with an experienced California employment rights lawyer. You have that right, and your future could depend on it.

By: Fred Geonetta

Frederick J. Geonetta is a graduate of the University of California, Hastings College of Law. His legal practice is entirely devoted to litigation. Mr. Geonetta has spent the past 25 years in private practice representing both plaintiffs and defendants who have been harmed or wronged by the actions of others or who have been falsely accused of causing harm to others. He represents clients across the U.S. and international clients who seek U.S. legal advice or representation.