There’s a certain level of stress that one can expect while in the workplace. After all, we’re essentially forced to go into the office instead of enjoying a day at the park or binging our favorite series at home. And since no business can perfectly predict how a typical day will go, it’s possible that a day could become particularly burdensome to your mental well-being. However, are you allowed to sue a New York City employer for stress and anxiety?

We wish there were a one-size-fits-all answer to this question, but there simply isn’t. There are varying issues that could affect your ability to seek compensation. In fact, two workers at the same job site could experience the exact stressors — but only one of them may be eligible to file a lawsuit. The important thing to remember is that — as an employee — you have certain rights. Here’s what you need to know about potentially suing an NYC employer for emotional distress.

Does Workplace Stress and Anxiety Entitle You To Compensation?

If you found your way to this guide looking for a simple answer, then yes, workplace stress and anxiety may entitle you to compensation. However, just because your job stresses you out does not mean you’ll be successful with a lawsuit. First off, the stressors you face must cause harm more significant than what’s expected in your position. For instance, customer service agents would be expected to experience a bit of stress while dealing with an angry client. This is normal.

An important fact to remember is that emotional harms are not tangible. While it’s easy to see the harm caused by a broken bone or a serious burn, quantifying emotional distress can be far more difficult. This is why it’s typically ideal to speak with an attorney and a medical professional. A lawyer can help you understand whether you have a valid lawsuit, and a mental health specialist can help quantify anxiety and stress in a way that the courts understand.

Can You Get Workers’ Compensation for Stress and Anxiety?

Before jumping right into litigation with your employer, you should ask yourself if that’s the right approach. Over 80% of American workers experience stress related to their jobs. If all these individuals sued their employers, the civil court system would come to a grinding halt. This is why normal stress typically does not justify litigation. In some instances, though, workers’ compensation benefits might be available.

If you consider your situation, this may be a far preferable option. For instance, filing a lawsuit will create great animosity between a worker and their employer. And if issues related to workplace stress and anxiety are compensable under workers’ comp, it’s likely that a lawsuit will be thrown out anyway. This is why it’s so important to speak with an NYC employment law attorney before making any drastic decisions. You may be able to get compensation without burning bridges.

Do You Have Cause to Sue NYC Employers for Stress and Anxiety?

In many instances, workers’ compensation may not be an option. In fact, there are certain situations where you’ll have no reason to attempt to preserve a relationship with a company. This occurs when workplace emotional distress stems from illegal actions on the part of your employer. Here are a few of the most common reasons you can sue a New York City employer over stress and anxiety.


If you’re experiencing emotional distress related to workplace discrimination, there are federal and state laws that protect you. Filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is often a good start, but New York provides additional protections for those discriminated against in the workplace. If you’re stressed due to discrimination based on race, religion, age, or other protected statuses, you may have a valid lawsuit.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment occurs when unwanted behaviors occur in the workplace based on a person’s sex. This can include unwelcome advances, inappropriate touching, requests for sexual favors, jokes about a specific gender, and any other harassment of a sexual nature. Studies show that sexual harassment can result in mental and physical health issues, so victims of such behaviors may have very solid grounds for filing a lawsuit for stress and anxiety.

Infliction of Emotional Distress

Discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuits fall into their own categories. Damages for stress and anxiety are typically secondary to the larger employment lawsuit. However, it’s also possible to sue New York City employers for stress and anxiety based on the infliction of emotional distress. This can be intentional (e.g., using racial insults) or negligent (e.g., offering no mechanism to report harassment). You should speak with a Brooklyn employment attorney to see if you qualify.


Imagine you witness inappropriate behavior in the workplace and report it to your boss. Afterward, you’re suddenly demoted to a lower-paying position in an undesirable department. If this change is related to your report, your employer has engaged in retaliation. Obviously, this can cause significant emotional distress. You have the right to engage in any legal activities — including reporting wrongdoing or filing for workers’ comp — without fear of retaliation.

How to Sue New York City Employers for Stress and Anxiety

The process of suing New York City employers depends entirely upon the basis for litigation. For instance, a lawsuit based on discrimination could go through a different process than one based on retaliation. In some cases, you may need to submit a complaint to the EEOC and receive a Notice of Right to Sue before bringing a case forward in federal court. Of course, New York State laws may allow you to file litigation without going the federal route.

In fact, there are some instances where suing an NYC employer for stress and anxiety can only take place in a state court. That’s because New York provides more protections than federal statutes, thanks to our state’s Human Rights Law. Clearly, these legal matters can get complex. This is why speaking to a Brooklyn employment law lawyer first may be in your best interest. Our law firm can help you understand your rights and what you’re up against.