Know This Before Suing For Emotional Distress At Work


There are times when an office environment becomes so toxic that you wish you don’t have to resume there every morning. You might probably be wondering what the reason behind this is as it is gradually becoming the case for some employees of several organizations. The employees may find themselves suffering from emotional distress on a daily basis with zero knowledge of what to do.

In several cases, the emotional distress comes from their colleagues working in the same office with them. It could also be the manager or head of the department who is causing the discomfort and making it difficult for them to discharge their duties effectively.

Most people feel this is a normal situation and that they do not have the right to sue when it is something as “intangible” as this. However, this is not exactly the case as you do not need to learn to live with it or even quit your job. This is a situation no one should tolerate regardless of their level.

How to Prove That You are Going Through Emotional Distress

Emotional distress is something that is inflicted on a person either intentionally or negligently. However, before you sue, it is important that you prove that you are actually undergoing this situation and also find out the type of distress you are affected with.

Type 1

When it comes to negligent emotional distress, someone acts in a way that causes severe discomfort without being aware of the impact of their actions on the recipient. It could also be that they were behaving in a way that shows they do not care about the implications of their actions on the psychological wellbeing of the recipient.

The underlying principle with this kind of situation is that the person involved is expected to use reasonable care to avoid causing severe discomfort to another person but failed to do so.

Type 2

Intentional emotional distress happens when someone has an extreme and outrageous behavior towards the person affected which results in the distress.

Causes of Emotional Distress in the Office

The following are some causes of occurrence in the office:

Sexual Harassment

This kind of situation arises as a result of constant stalking from a co-worker or boss who is making romantic advances and has refused to accept rejection. Such people tend to make the office uncomfortable for one.

Public Embarrassment

No one likes to be embarrassed so being at the receiving end of a backlash from a manager who wants to show everyone your flaws can lead to emotional distress.


There are colleagues who make jokes about virtually everything in the office. From one’s appearance to their performance in tasks. Such people put one on the edge and make them jittery even in situations when they would have been bold. The effect of this is an uncomfortable feeling in the office which shouldn’t be the case.

Witnessing a Hurtful Event

Being a witness to an event that was physically hurtful can cause trauma even if one is not hurt. There are people who are constituted in such a way that they can barely bear the sight of unpleasant and hurtful events. Such situations can cause them to be traumatized.

Signs that Show Emotional Distress

The following are some signs that can sure that an individual is experiencing this situation:

Eating less or More than Usual

One of the notable signs of this condition is the change in feeding pattern. Most times when one is sad, it reflects in the way they eat, it could be loss of appetite or eating in excess. When you notice this change in how you eat, it may be related to what you are going through at work.

Sleep Disorder

Another way to know when one may be emotionally distressed is the way they sleep. Some people suffer from insomnia, while some will develop a habit of sleeping more than usual.


It is common to see some people experience fatigue when they are not psychologically balanced. In this case, they tend to lose interest in doing things that they do easily and they might also require more time to rest than usual. These are signs of discomfort or dissatisfaction with a tide in their workplace.

New Habits

It is easy to find someone who is emotionally disturbed developing a new habit like drinking or smoking. Some even take it farther to doing drugs just to get over what they are feeling. While this does not put an end to their issues, they see it as a temporary measure to let go of their hurt and bad feelings. It is very important to put it in check before it leads to an addiction that will be difficult to redeem.

What to Do before Suing for Emotional Distress in Your Workplace

The following are some recommended steps to take if you have decided to sue:


Be sure to document the events that caused the discomfort. For people who were present during an event that led to the ill feeling, that would be their own documentation, while the ones involved in an ongoing issue will need to write the names of those involved and the actual cause of the discomfort.

Report to Your Boss

It is important that you report to your superior or manager what you are going through before you take any legal action. This is because most organizations have an internal policy that prohibits any form of discomfort for employees as a result of their job description. When you report, they may conduct an internal investigation which may lead to a change of department or a reduction in your workload. This is also beneficial to your cause and might save you from litigation hassles.

On the contrary, if there are no internal investigations and your boss is showing no signs of resolving the issue, you can then go ahead and sue for the emotional distress that the organization has caused you. The courts are likely to take sides with you if a formal report was made to your employer and no effort was made to address the issue. The key to a successful court outing is proper documentation of the events leading to the discomfort and the compensation varies according to the degree of discomfort the employee had to deal with on the job.

These are some points we feel you should note before suing for emotional discomfort in your workplace. However, if you need tips on how to deal with stress at work, you can check here.


No employee deserves to lose themselves psychologically while working for an organization. It is important that one monitors tides in their workplace to know when the environment is becoming unconducive for them to be productive. When one is troubled emotionally, their level of productivity drops, and this also affects their personal life. It is imperative that employees know their rights and when they are being infringed upon by their employers or colleagues.


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