Six Simple Steps to Proving Emotional Distress Damages
Every act of discrimination or harassment at work creates stress. Over time, the stress can build up until you reach a point of severe emotional distress.
You may be awarded significant money damages for emotional distress. How much you will be awarded depends on the evidence.
Your own testimony is important. You can explain how the discrimination or harassment made you feel, and the emotional and physical impacts it had on you. To win a very large damages award for emotional distress, however, you will need more than your own testimony.
Here are six simple steps you can take to increase your chances of winning a very large monetary award for emotional distress.
1. Share Your Feelings with a Close Friend or Family Member
Do not go through this alone. Share what is happening with a close friend or family member. Let them know what is happening and how it is affecting you.
Even if you never take any legal action, having someone who can listen and provide emotional support is important to keep you sane and strong. You need that support in order to make good decisions.
That person can also provide important evidence to support your claim for emotional distress damages. They can testify about when the discrimination and harassment started, how it made you feel, how it changed your moods or even your personality, and how it progressed over time. This will be important evidence to corroborate your own testimony.
2. Consult a Healthcare Professional
If you have suffered any stress caused by events at work, then you should consult with a medical professional, counselor, or social worker.
Talk to your physician about the stress you are feeling. Explain any effects the stress is having on you, such as difficulty sleeping, mood swings, or changes in appetite. Let your physician examine you for any physical signs of distress. You may discover that your blood pressure is elevated or that there have been other physical changes since your last checkup. You need to know these things right away in order to protect your health and well-being.
Talk to a counselor or social worker about any stress, anxiety, or other feelings. Professional counselors are emphathetic by nature. They are also trained professionals who can help you understand how the stress may be affecting you in subtle ways that you do not notice. They can also help you cope with the stress and gain the confidence you need to make smart decisions about how to respond to what is happening at work.
Whether you are depressed, angry or just anxious, talking to professionals is the right thing to do for your physical and mental health.
Consulting healthcare professionals will also increase your chances of winning a significant money damages award. Testimony from a physician, social worker, or counselor is powerful evidence of emotional distress. Their testimony and records about the impact the events at work have had on you will help prove that the events at work really did happen, and that they were severe enough to justify a large damages award.
3. Take Detailed Notes of What is Happening
Write down everything that is happening to you in terms of discrimination or harassment at work. Make these notes on a daily basis. Put the date at the top of each note. Describe exactly what was said or done, when it happened, who was involved, and who witnessed it. Most importantly, describe how the events made you feel. Describe in detail whether you were nervous, anxious, or hesitant to go back to work. Explain any physical effects such as difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite, or heart palpitations. Write down any unusual changes in your behavior such as mood swings or lashing out at a friend for no good reason.
Your notes can help you remember details that will make your testimony more powerful. They may also be used as evidence under certain circumstances.
4. Consider Making an Audio Recording
An audio recording can be powerful evidence of how severe the discrimination or harassment has been. There is no requirement to have such evidence, and it often does not exist. But when it does, it usually leads to an early settlement or a large jury verdict.
In New York, you are allowed to secretly record a conversation as long as you are a participant in the conversation. In other words, you may use a concealed recording device such as a smart phone to record your conversations with others. You do not have to tell them that you are recording the conversation as long as they know that you are able to hear what they are saying. But you are not permitted to leave a recording device in a room or attached to a phone and leave. You must be a participant in the conversation in order to record it.
There is another important exception. Some employers prohibit recording devices in the workplace for security reasons or to protect their intellectual property. Be sure to check your employee handbook or manual before recording conversations in the workplace. When in doubt, check with your lawyer before you record the conversation.
5. Make a List of Witnesses
Make a list of everyone who knows anything about what happened and how it has affected you. Start with anyone who actually saw or heard what happened. Include anyone who may have suffered from similar conduct.
Witnesses who saw you shortly after offensive conduct can be very important. Someone who saw you immediately after an incident may be able to testify that you were noticeably shaken up. That type of testimony can help corroborate your claims and prove that you are entitled to damages for emotional distress.
6. Talk to an Experienced Employment Rights Lawyer
The internet is a great place to start looking for information about your legal rights. But it can also create confusion. Do you have a strong case? Will the lawyer represent you on a contingency fee basis? Should you file a complaint with your employer? Should you file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the New York State Division of Human Rights (NYSDHR)?
Do not let these questions increase your stress level. Talk to an experienced employment lawyer who can answer all your questions. We begin with a simple, confidential conversation. You tell us what has been happening to you. We listen. Then we tell you what your options are.
Call us today at (212) 601-2728 to schedule your free and confidential consultation.
John Howley, Esq.