Posted on January 10, 2018 in Workplace Harassment
In a perfect world, everyone would feel happy and comfortable within their workplace and actively enjoy doing their job – but unfortunately, this is not the case for a large number of workers. Emotional distress at work can have a significant impact on the affected individual – and if your boss or working environment needlessly causes such distress, this can make both your working hours and downtime highly unpleasant and have a significant impact on your emotional health.
In this article, I will explain what constitutes emotional distress at work and cover some of its common causes, as well as sharing some tips on handling emotional distress and advice on what to do if your workplace is causing you emotional distress.
Emotional distress may be caused to an employee if they are subjected to acute mental or physical harm (also known as workplace harassment). This may lead to a wide range of effects on the employee in question, including depression and anxiety, feelings of hopelessness, panic, and in extreme cases, severe mental distress that can lead to suicidal thoughts or actions.
Under federal law, two different types of work-related emotional distress are recognized, being intentionally inflicted emotional distress, and negligently inflicted emotional distress respectively.
Intentionally inflicted emotional distress is, as the term implies, deliberate, whilst negligently inflicted emotional distress occurs if your boss or employer fails to take reasonable steps to avoid causing emotional distress to their workforce or individual members of the workforce.
Let us first begin with a brief explanation as to what stress is, in physiological terms. While often linked solely to negative outcomes, stress isn’t always a negative reaction. In fact, this bodily response is the body’s defense system to help an individual face a threat.
Stress should kick in when danger is sensed – whether real or simply perceived – with this automatic reaction releasing adrenaline and cortisol (a stress hormone) to assist the body in remaining alert, and providing additional strength to defend yourself. This process is also known as “flight or fight”; in medical terms, it is called the “stress response”.
However, problems arise when stress is experienced too frequently. The biological reaction of a pounding heart, tightening muscles, rising blood pressure and sharpened senses, can lead to:
Frequent stress can also exacerbate existing health problems, including:
Many jobs are, by their very nature, potentially highly stressful or likely to lead to periods of distress or employee unhappiness. Examples of these include law enforcement officers, healthcare workers and others who work in highly pressurized and often difficult situations.
However, it’s important to note that your working environment and treatment by management or colleagues should not, in and of itself, lead to emotional distress.
Being bullied, victimized or attacked (emotionally or physically) in the workplace can cause emotional distress, as can a working environment that is negligently dangerous, frightening, or that otherwise places you at risk of physical or mental harm.
Emotional distress cases are commonly related to:
While the following examples will most likely NOT be considered as outrageous conflict…
Everyone experiences stress at work from time to time, but a stressful job should not result in emotional distress. Managing your stress levels and safeguarding your mental health can help to ensure that workplace stress and the effects of your working environment don’t tip over into the realms of emotional distress.
Here are some tips for handling and reducing the impact of emotional distress at work:
Legally, an employer can be deemed to cause emotional distress either intentionally or by being negligent. There are two types of emotional distress that are described and recognized by both state and federal laws…
If your manager/supervisor or a colleague either intentionally or recklessly subjects you to either “extreme” or “outrageous” treatment, then you might be eligible to make a claim for IIED. However, proving IIED in court can be complex, as the terms “extreme” and “outrageous” are subjective.
In order to be successful, an IIED claim must demonstrate one of the following:
Where an employer fails to use reasonable care to avoid inflicting emotional distress, then there may be grounds to make a claim. In order to be successful, a NIED claim must demonstrate the following:
Others in the workplace who bear witness to such behaviors can also make a claim, even if they weren’t harmed themselves.
If you feel that your boss or employer is causing you emotional distress and you have attempted to raise the issue formally within the company – or if you feel unable to do so for fear of worsening the issue or falling victim to retaliation – contact Walker Law for professional advice from a specialist firm of employment law attorneys in San Diego.