What Are My Legal Rights to Sue an Employer?

What Are My Legal Rights to Sue an Employer?

If you’re injured at work, particularly if it’s because you’re in an unsafe environment, what are your rights? This guide explains.

You may be entitled to file a personal injury claim if you suffer an injury at work – but only if it’s due to your employer’s negligence. Generally, you’ll only be entitled to file a worker’s compensation claim. Physical injuries don’t have to be obvious, but they must be documented by professionals. 

You could be entitled to sue if:

  • You were injured by a defective product that your employer made (or, if another entity made the product, you may be able to sue that manufacturer instead)
  • You were injured by a toxic substance
  • You were injured because of your employer’s intentional conduct
  • Your employer doesn’t carry worker’s compensation insurance
  • A third party caused your injury (in which case you would sue the third party)

The same is true with psychological injury, which you can incur due to workplace bullying or intimidation, harassment, or even stress.

Related: 5 important rights independent contractors have

Suing for Emotional Distress

Emotional distress may be grounds for a lawsuit against your employer. Emotional distress can be the result of your employer’s negligence or intentional conduct.

Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress

Emotional distress caused by someone’s negligent conduct isn’t always easy to prove. You and your attorney must show that:

  • The defendant acted negligently or willfully violated their statutory duty
  • You suffered serious emotional distress
  • The defendant’s negligent conduct or violation of statutory standards was the cause of your serious emotional distress

For example, if your employer (or another employee of your company) had the legal duty to use reasonable care to avoid causing you emotional distress but failed to do so, you may have a case. For example, if you were nearly harmed by a piece of equipment that wasn’t being properly maintained, you could potentially sue your employer.

Related: Federal employment laws that protect California workers

Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

Intentional infliction of emotional distress is far more nefarious than negligent infliction is because it’s based on extreme or outrageous behavior that’s intentional or recklessly performed. You and your attorney will have to prove that:

  • Your employer or an agent of your employer acted intentionally or recklessly
  • Your employer’s or the agent of your employer’s conduct was extreme and outrageous
  • The employer or agent’s conduct caused you mental distress
  • Your emotional distress was severe

“Extreme and outrageous” is what often makes these types of cases difficult to prove. Really, what the courts need to see is that the same circumstances would cause another reasonable person to be unable to cope with the mental distress from the situation. 

For example, purposely putting you in a dangerous situation – such as someone pushing you off a scaffolding “as a joke” and expecting your safety gear to protect you – can be extreme and outrageous behavior. However, there are many types of extreme and outrageous behavior that result in a person feeling shame, embarrassment or fright.

Related: 4 things you can do if you’re being harassed at work

When Are Employers Responsible for Employees’ Actions?

Employers are not always responsible for their employees’ actions. However, in the past, courts have found them responsible when the conduct that caused a person emotional distress is within the scope of an employee’s job, or when the employer consented to the conduct. For example, if your employer’s security staff wrongfully accuses you of stealing something in front of everyone else, your employer may be held liable. Additionally, employers can often be held liable for failing to respond to numerous complaints (such as those of sexual harassment).

Do You Need to Talk to an Attorney About Your Legal Rights to Sue an Employer?

If you think you may have a case against your employer, the best way to find out whether it’ll hold water in court is to consult with an employment attorney in LA or Glendale. Call us at 818-230-8380 or fill out the form below to schedule your free consultation – we may be able to help you get the compensation you deserve.


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