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Can I Sue My Employer for Emotional Distress?


Typically, an individual can recover damages for the emotional distress associated with the injuries they suffered due to the wrongful actions of another person. This differs from the economic damages one suffers as a result of the loss.

For example, economic damages compensate a personal injury victim for their medical bills while emotional distress damages compensate them for the fear, anxiety, and other negative psychological consequences of suffering the injury.

The same is true when there is a violation of the human rights law. Emotional distress damages are recoverable and such claims are a common component of a discrimination case. Such damages are available under (for example) Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL), and the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL).

Emotional distress awards in New York are generally grouped into three categories: “garden-variety,”“significant” and “egregious.” In “garden variety” emotional distress claims, the evidence of mental suffering is usually limited to plaintiff’s testimony. With garden variety claims, there is typically no mental health care treatment. 

Unlike garden-variety emotional distress claims,“significant” emotional distress claims “are based on more substantial harm or more offensive conduct, are sometimes supported by medical testimony and evidence, evidence of treatment by a healthcare professional and/or medication, and testimony from other, corroborating witnesses.” Finally,“egregious” emotional distress claims “generally involve either ‘outrageous or shocking’ discriminatory conduct or a significant impact on the physical health of the plaintiff.”

It is important to note that emotional distress damages differ from a specific cause of action for “intentional infliction of emotional distress.” Where emotional distress damages focus on the effects of suffering a particular injury, a cause of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress treats emotional suffering itself as the central injury itself from which your right to recover other damages flows.

In New York, emotional distress damages are compensable if they flow from the discrimination at issue.

Skilled Legal Counsel from Schwartz Perry & Heller LLP

If your employer has subjected you to extreme discriminatory conduct or created a hostile work environment through outrageous sexual harassment, you might have grounds to sue your employer for damages. To determine the merits of your case, you should consult an experienced attorney from Schwartz Perry & Heller LLP. We have years of invaluable experience litigating cases involving wrongful terminations and sexual harassment. We are prepared to stand up to your employer on your behalf to protect and preserve your legal rights and interests.

To schedule a consultation with one of our employment attorneys, call Schwartz Perry & Heller LLP at (646) 490-0221 or contact us online today.

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