Can I Sue My Boss for Emotional Distress in California?

suing boss for emotional distress

Mistreatment by your employer or boss can turn your efforts to make a living into an incredibly painful daily burden.

You shouldn’t experience mistreatment at work.

If you can’t continue working under your employer’s terrible treatment, can you sue your employer for emotional distress?

In many cases, you can sue your employer for emotional distress, but it depends on the circumstances of your case. 

Not All Workplace Issues Can Be the Subject of an Emotional Distress Lawsuit

Workers’ compensation law bars many, but not all, emotional distress lawsuits.

Under California law, workers’ compensation is normally the exclusive remedy for harmed workers, even those suffering emotional distress at the hands of their bosses.

But suing for emotional distress at work is allowed if the basis of your emotional distress lawsuit involves a public policy issue.

Workplace public policy issues that could give you the right to sue for emotional distress include:

Sorting out how your employer’s emotionally distressing actions relate to different workplace law violations can be difficult and emotional, but it’s crucial to your case to get that connection right.

A skilled employment lawyer knows exactly how to make the connections you need to keep your emotional distress case alive in court.

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There Are Different Kinds of Emotional Distress Cases

If you have the option of suing your boss for emotional distress, you need to know the basics of this kind of claim.

You can sue for intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED) or negligent infliction of emotional distress (NEID).

There are different standards for proving each kind of emotional distress case, so you want to be clear on the wrongful actions your employer or boss has taken before you file a lawsuit. 

Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

To prove IIED against anyone, you have to prove:

  • The defendant engaged in outrageous conduct, 
  • The defendant intended to cause you emotional distress or had reckless disregard for the probability of causing you emotional distress, 
  • You suffered severe or extreme emotional distress, and 
  • The defendant caused your emotional distress.

Proving to the court that someone caused you emotional distress is not a simple task. The law requires you to prove “actual” and “proximate” causation of your distress.

These are special legal standards that an attorney is in the best position to develop into a persuasive argument.

Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress

If you’re suing someone for NIED, you need to prove:

  • The defendant was negligent
  • You suffered serious emotional distress; and 
  • Negligence was a substantial factor in causing your emotional distress.

This might seem like the simpler standard for proving emotional distress, but that isn’t always the case.

To prove their negligence, you have to prove that the person you’re suing caused you damage by breaching a duty that they owed you.

Sometimes these elements can be hard to prove. But an experienced employment law attorney who knows the contours of NIED workplace claims can help sort out your claim.

Contact an Attorney to Protect You in Stressful Times

Suing your boss for emotional distress is not easy. It is an extended process in which professional support can make a world of difference in your fight.

We have more than 20 years of experience at Ottinger Employment Lawyers, and we have a singular focus: helping our clients with difficult employment issues.

We are a top boutique firm in this area of the law, and we are ready to help you win the compensation you deserve. Contact us on our website or call us at 866-476-7426 for a consultation. We’re available 24/7.

For details about our Los Angeles office, click here.

For details about our San Francisco office, click here.

Author Photo

Robert Ottinger, Esq.

Robert Ottinger is an employment attorney who focuses on representing executives and employees in employment disputes. Before starting his firm, Robert slugged it out in courtrooms trying cases for the government. Robert served as a Deputy Attorney General for the California Department of Justice in Los Angeles and then as Assistant Attorney General for the New York Attorney General’s Office in Manhattan.

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