Virtually every type of work involves some form of stress, and it is natural for employees across every industry to experience various levels of anxiety related to their jobs. Work involving physical labor causes stress to the body, and many office positions involve a great deal of day-to-day pressure when it comes to addressing issues and communicating about company goals. While it is normal to experience some stress and anxiety at work, at a certain point these factors can reach unreasonable levels. Are you wondering, “can I sue my employer for stress and anxiety?” The answer is yes, under certain conditions.
When Can I Take Legal Action for Work-Related Stress and Anxiety?
It is unreasonable for anyone to expect to have an entirely stress and anxiety-free working experience. In every industry, employees will undoubtedly experience some level of stress in performing their expected duties. However, when an employee experiences severe stress and anxiety due to harassment, discrimination, or other factors outside the realm of what a reasonable person would consider normal, that employee may have grounds for legal action.
Some of the most commonly cited sources of workplace stress and anxiety that can form reasonable grounds for legal claims from affected employees include:
- Unequal enforcement of company policies. You are always on time for your shifts while a coworker is consistently late. Your supervisor doesn’t seem to mind their tardiness and does nothing to correct them. One day you are ten minutes late due to traffic and your supervisor subjects you to a tirade about your irresponsibility and lack of work ethic. This creates excessive stress and anxiety for you and would be a clear example of unequal enforcement of company policies.
- Sexual harassment. All employees of all industries have the right to work free from sexual harassment. If a supervisor attempts to suggest a quid pro quo arrangement of sexual favors in exchange for work-related privileges or threatens the employee with work-based penalties if they do not agree to grant sexual privileges, this can easily cause tremendous stress and anxiety for the affected employee and will likely form grounds for a future sexual harassment claim.
- Unreasonable deadlines and productivity requirements. The listed job duties for most positions available in US companies will make expectations for employees clear. While employees should strive to put forth their best effort and meet their job responsibilities, some supervisors and managers will impose completely unrealistic deadlines on employees or make job expectations so demanding that employees will feel constantly stressed and anxious about facing disciplinary action or losing their jobs.
These are only a few possible examples of how stress and anxiety can manifest beyond reasonable limits in any workplace. If you believe you have been subjected to issues such as these, an experienced employment attorney can help you determine your best available legal options for addressing the situation.
What Can a Lawsuit for Stress and Anxiety Accomplish?
You can file a lawsuit against your employer for stress and anxiety if the stress and anxiety you experienced eclipses the reasonable levels expected for your position. This may sound subjective, and employees affected by excessive stress and anxiety may not know how to prove their circumstances. Typically, if the stress and anxiety you have experienced from work have had a detrimental effect on your personal health, you likely have solid grounds for legal action.
Excessive stress and anxiety affect the human body in many ways. Constant stress triggers the steady release of stress hormones that prevent the immune system from functioning effectively. Acute anxiety can also cause more serious health conditions such as rapid heartbeat and other cardiovascular complications. Over time, constantly elevated levels of stress and anxiety will not only make it harder for the employee to manage their job duties, but also significantly affect their personal life.
If you have suffered adverse health effects from excessive stress and anxiety from your job, your attorney can help you file a workers’ compensation claim and explore further legal remedies depending on the source of the stress and anxiety you experienced. In California, every employer must have workers’ compensation insurance, and injured workers have the right to file claims for benefits when they experience work-related injuries. This applies to mental health conditions, as well.
Your attorney can help you prove that any recent health issues you may have experienced resulted from the stress and anxiety caused by your job and guide you through the workers’ compensation claim process. If these experiences resulted from unfair treatment at work, harassment of any kind, or discriminatory behaviors from your supervisors, your attorney could assist you in taking legal action against the parties responsible.
Proving Unreasonable Stress and Anxiety from Work
It’s relatively difficult to prove that adverse health effects from stress and anxiety at work, but your attorney can help you provide the evidence you need to substantiate a workers’ compensation and/or lawsuit:
- You must prove the working conditions you experienced were objectively stressful.
- Your attorney will help you gather evidence to prove the adverse effects of the stress you experienced.
- You must prove that the circumstances in question were “peculiar” to your workplace and/or job duties.
- Your attorney can help you obtain objective evidence that supports your claim of experiencing adverse psychiatric disability.
- The court must review the credibility of the case as a whole, including any psychological predispositions the employee may have brought to the job.
If you and your attorney can successfully prove these elements, it’s possible to secure coverage for medical treatment, counseling, and lost income due to spending time out of work. Your attorney can also help you protect your job and hold your employer accountable if you have experienced illegal harassment and/or discrimination in your workplace.
The California Employment Counsel, APC provides robust and compassionate legal representation to employees injured at work, including those who have experienced adverse mental health conditions due to unreasonable working conditions. If you believe the stress and anxiety you have recently experienced were results of unfair, unreasonable, or hostile working conditions, contact us today to find out how our firm can assist in your recovery.