Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress By Employers

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What Do I Need to Prove In Order To Sue For Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress By My Employer? 

In order to bring an action against your employer for intentional infliction of emotional distress, you must allege and prove the following: 

     1. Intentional or reckless conduct by a co-worker; 
     2. The conduct was extreme and outrageous;
     3. The conduct caused you severe emotional distress; and 
     4. The employer was responsible for that co-worker's conduct. 

Who May Sue For Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress By an Employer? 

While the injured employee may certainly bring this suit against the the employer and/or the co-worker who is responsible for the emotional distress, the family members of the injured employee may also sue for emotional distress that derived from the injuries done to the employee. 

What Does "Extreme and Outrageous Conduct" Mean? 

Basically, "extreme and outrageous conduct" means conduct that goes beyond all possible bounds of decency and is regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized society. There are two factors that may make it easier to prove that conduct by the wrongdoing co-worker was extreme and outrageous: 

  1. There was some kind of a relationship between the wrongdoing co-worker and the injured employee, which would allow the wrongdoing co-worker to cause harm to the injured employee; and 
  2. The wrongdoing co-worker had knowledge that the injured employee was particularly susceptible to emotional distress. 

How Do I Prove that I Have Suffered Severe Emotional Distress As A Result of the Wrongdoing?

All courts require that the injured employee's emotional distress must be "severe" before he/she can bring a lawsuit. "Severe" means so intense that no reasonable person could be expected to endure it. Generally, the best way to prove that you have suffered severe emotional distress is to have some physical symptoms of emotional distress. They may include: 

     1. High blood pressure; 
     2. Disturbance to the nervous systems; 
     3. Nausea; 
     4. General physical illness; 
     5. Depression; and
     6. Insomnia. 

While not all courts require that the injured employee exhibits physical symptoms of emotional distress in order to bring a suit, the case will be much stronger if the symptoms are present. 

When Is the Employer Responsible For the Co-Worker's Conduct?

There are generally three situations where the employer may become responsible for the co-worker's conduct: 

  1. When the co-worker acted within the course and scope of his/her employment and in furtherance of the employer's business; 
  2. The employer failed to address the complaints filed by the injured employee against the co-worker's conduct; and 
  3. The co-worker held a very important position in the employer's business so that his/her actions may be attributable to the employer. 

The determination of the employer's responsibility is a factual issue that depends on the facts and circumstances of each case. 

Do you Need a Personal Injury Attorney to Sue for Emotional Distress? 

If you or a loved one has been injured by the intentional or negligent acts of another, you should speak to an attorney immediately to learn more about preserving your rights and remedies. A lawyer will be able to explain the value of your case and help you navigate through the complicated legal process. Most lawyers who handle these types of personal injury matters work on a contingency basis. 

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Last Modified: 05-23-2013 11:28 AM PDT

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