When an employee has faced repeated derogatory remarks, or insensitive and degrading treatment at work from a co-worker or superior, the psychological effects can become debilitating over time. Not only can they suffer from depression, lost sleep and anxiety, if an employee’s productivity also suffers over time, it may give the employer cause to terminate them due to poor job performance.
The two forms of emotional distress
When pursuing an emotional distress claim, the two legally recognized forms are negligently or intentionally inflicted emotional distress, and are each determined by the state of mind of the alleged perpetrator:
- In a claim of negligent infliction of emotional distress (NIED), the plaintiff must prove that the defendant had a duty of care to avoid causing emotional distress to the employee, that they willfully or negligently violated that duty, and that this caused emotional distress to the victim.
- In a claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED), also called the “tort of outrage”, the elements needed to prove this charge are that the defendant acted intentionally or recklessly, that their conduct was extreme, that their actions caused the employee mental distress, and that the distress was severe.
Pursuing emotional stress damages
In Kentucky, there are both federal and state protections against workplace discrimination that allow employees to recover monetary compensation for pain and suffering. The range of harms due to emotional distress can include:
- A psychiatric condition such as anxiety or depression
- Loss of enjoyment of life or strained personal relationships
- Reputational harm
Proving emotional distress damages may require the testimony of friends or family or a medical professional, and strong medical evidence or testimony will strengthen the claim. Usually, the more substantial the evidence in support of the claim is, the higher the award for damages will be.
There are risks to filing such a claim which include exposing the employee’s personal or medical history, especially if the employer’s attorney requests information on any past psychological history, asserts other causes for the employee’s distress such as a recent divorce, or suggests that the claim is exaggerated.
Consulting a compassionate legal advocate serving the Louisville community will help you to develop the best strategy to address compensation for the workplace discrimination that you have suffered.