How to Sue an Employer for Emotional Distress

Everyday life is stressful, and nothing could make it worse than having to deal with a difficult workplace or co-worker. Despite repeatedly trying to make the situation better, or reaching out to your manager, your issue isn’t being taken seriously, and you’re not sure what to do.

As time passes, you begin to have difficulty getting to sleep at night, may feel depressed, and could even be suffering from workplace-induced anxiety.

The situation isn’t being resolved and you don’t feel heard, so you begin to wonder how to reach a resolution, and question whether or not you can sue your employer for emotional distress.

If you’re currently experiencing this type of negligence, we truly sympathize with you.

The good news is that it is possible to make a personal injury claim to recover damages, however, there are two types of emotional distress recognized in a court of law, and it’s essential you know the difference between the two.

This article will aim to provide you with a helping hand during this time, and clearly explain to you whether your situation may fit the criteria to make a claim, how to prove your distress, and, of course, how to go through with the process of suing your employer. Just keep reading. 

How to sue an employer for emotional distress

How to Officially Prove an Emotional Distress Claim

Let’s start by decoding those two types of emotional distress we just touched upon. Emotional distress can be inflicted either intentionally, or negligently.

The difference between the two is very much based upon the intentions and state of mind of the person/group responsible for performing the act.

Both types of emotional distress require clear proof of whether or not certain acts did or did not occur in order to determine whether emotional distress occurred.

To simplify that, here’s a breakdown:

Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress (NIED)

If you have experienced emotional distress that has been caused by another person’s negligent behavior, you may be able to make a claim for NIED.

Oftentimes, a successful negligent infliction of emotional distress claim will be able to prove the following points:

  • The defendant engaged in a willful violation or displayed negligent conduct of statutory duty.
  • The plaintiff experienced intense emotional distress, and the defendant’s negligent conduct and intentional violation of statutory standards were the cause of this emotional distress. 

A successful NIED claim is often swayed by clear proof that the person/party accused has avoided or abused their care of duty responsibility, therefore causing emotional distress to another individual.

In addition, the claim for NIED can be provided by either the person harmed by the negligent behavior or other co-workers who have witnessed this act of negligence/accident but were not physically harmed by it themselves.

With that being said, you could therefore raise a claim for NIED if you were, say, walking around your company's warehouse and a heavy box fell onto you.

On the other hand, your claim would most likely be unsuccessful if you happened to witness a box falling and you were not within the danger zone.

Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (IIED)

IIED is the next type of emotional distress, and sometimes it is referred to as the “tort of outrage.” This is because it refers to behavior that has been intentionally carried out to cause the receiver distress or pain.

In a court of law, you will often have to prove four elements in order for your claim to be successful, they are:

  • The employer or employee has acted intentionally
  • The employer or employee’s conduct was unacceptable
  • The employer or employee’s behavior has caused the employee mental distress
  • The emotional distress was severe and may be ongoing

It’s difficult to prove an IIED claim since there are no clear guidelines on what represents extreme and outrageous conduct. In a court of law, emotions such as fear, embarrassment, and guilt can be accepted as sufficient evidence of IIED taking place.

You may also provide any relevant medical documents in support of any mental distress caused by your workplace. However, it must be more than insults or annoyances. An example of this could be an employer making a joke about an employee on one occasion in jest.

Suing an Employer for the Acts of its Employees

Typically, an employer could face legal repercussions for their or an employee’s actions when the behavior that has caused the emotional distress is within taking place at work, or if the employer has been aware of the misconduct and allowed it to continue.

Most commonly, employers are often found liable for an employee’s actions through ratification. The definition of ratification has a different meaning from state to state, although clear proof of the three following factors will be required to successfully sue:

  • The employer was aware of the conduct being carried out
  • The employer was aware that the conduct was distressing
  • The employer did not take any steps to stop the conduct 

Compensation for Emotional Distress

Due to the nature of emotional distress, and how it can be subjective from person to person, it’s difficult for us to put a price on how much you may receive for your experiences.

In general, the payment of damages for an IIED or NIED claim will be proportional to how serious the emotional distress you were subjected to was.

Ultimately, this will be a decision that the jury and judge will make if your claim goes to court, and deciding factors could be the amount of distress you have suffered, if the emotional distress has continued, and the behavior of the defendant. 

Your Next Steps

Like we’ve touched upon above, emotional distress is a very subjective and fact-reliant issue that can be difficult to prove due to the lack of ‘physical’ harm, such as a bruise.

However, in no way does that take away from the seriousness of emotional distress and, if you have been suffering from this, the next step we recommend taking is seeking professional advice.

In particular, a personal injury attorney will be able to advise you on your personal situation and suggest relevant steps that you can take. 


Thank you for visiting. This website is for informational purposes only. None of the information provided is intended to constitute, nor does it constitute, legal advice, and none of the information necessarily reflects the opinions of Misty Rock Capital LLC dba or anyone associated, employed or affiliated with Misty Rock Capital LLC dba