Can I Sue For A Stressful Work Environment?

written by Guest Author on November 21, 2013 in Overcoming Burnout with 5 comments">5 comments

There really aren’t many jobs out there that don’t involve a bit of stress. Between pushing to meet deadlines to dealing with upset clients, almost every job out there forces you to deal with a healthy dose of stress. This can be good, as a bit of pressure can be the motivating force behind performing our best and meeting deadlines. Other times, you may feel that the daily pressures of your job exceed what you can handle, causing physical and/or mental illnesses.

The big question: Can you sue for a stressful work environment? The answer varies, depending on each case. The first aspect of deciphering if you have a case or not is determining whether the stress was caused by the high pressures of the job responsibilities or if your colleagues had any additional input to contribute to a hostile work environment.

Normal Stress vs. Hostile Environment

Most cases involving an employee suing the employer for work‐related stress fail. Why? Because unless you are under an employment contract, no one is forcing you to stay at your job. Yes, it may pay the bills. Yes, you may feel like you were stuck there for reasons outside of your control. However, when it comes down to it, you are volunteering to stay with the company. However, this doesn’t mean you are set up for failure.

Normal stress with the job means that the experienced stress is an understood, expected part of the industry or position. A retail manager likely would lose a case involving stress due to the high pressures put on the retail industry to meet specific goals. In the public relations industry, stress can come from deadlines and not obtaining the media coverage you were trying to achieve.

A hostile work environment can mean you have a real case though. If you felt discriminated against or experienced harassment while under stressful circumstances, the environment may have caused the extra pressures that made an uncomfortable workplace.

What Qualifies for a Hostile Work Environment?

From your first day on the job, you deserve respect. This does not mean everyone bows down to kiss the floor you walk on, but that you are treated like a normal human being. The common misunderstanding is that many plaintiffs assume they were disrespected because their boss came off as a cold heartless jerk. Unfortunately, he’s entitled to being a jerk as long as he treats everyone that way. Let’s look at what types of behaviors fall under the “hostility” umbrella:

  • Name calling and insults

  • Slurs

  • Offensive jokes

  • Unwanted touching

  • Discriminatory comments

These types of behaviors are inappropriate for the workplace, and they are vastly different from a boss who doesn’t care that your daughter made straight A’s this semester.

What Should I Do if Work Stress Caused Harm?

For some employees, their stress from a hostile work environment qualifies as work‐related injuries. Common injuries include ulcers and heart attacks, although the types vary from person to person. Call a seasoned personal injury lawyer for a free consultation to discuss your case. Your workplace may have caused you harm, but that doesn’t mean you can’t earn compensation for your suffering.

Lindsay Bradshaw is a blogger for Kyle Law Firm in New Braunfels, Texas. She thrives off stress and pressure.