Can I sue my employer for extreme work related stress (ie: insomnia, depression, mirgraines, nausea, ect...)

Asked over 2 years ago - Davenport, IA

I work in a medical facility that can be somewhat stressful as is. I started as a full time employee and due to work related stress I went down to part time. I typically work two 10 hour days a week. Recently we have had several staff leave causing us to be understaffed and are forcing me to take on extra hours. I'm feeling overly stressed due to the new schedule. They never asked me if I was ok being scheduled the extra hours and there are 4 people below me on seniority. I recently asked them to not schedule me over my hours and they said that I had no choice because they are understaffed.. I have missed several days of work due to stress related illnesses and it's affecting me in school as well as the time spent with my daughter. I'm not sure how long I can handle this.

Attorney answers (2)

  1. Christine C McCall


    Contributor Level 20


    Lawyer agrees

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    Answered . As Ms. Spencer has noted, it may be that your stress can be claimed as a work-caused injury under your state's worker's compensation laws. In all events, since you asked whether you can sue your employer for work-related stress, the answer is that you can make a worker's compensation claim. You cannot bring an independent lawsuit for damages for stress-based injuries caused by your work. Worker's compensation is the exclusive (only) legal redress of the worker who has been damaged by the job.

    Truth be told, stress and psychological injuries can be very difficult work comp claims. You should consult with an experienced work comp attorney in your state asap to discuss what your best options may be, and how to proceed if a work comp claim is your near-term best course.

    My responses to questions on Avvo are never intended as legal advice and must not be relied upon as legal advice.... more
  2. Marilynn Mika Spencer

    Contributor Level 20

    Answered . I am a California attorney and not eligible to give legal advice in your state. The following is information only, based on federal law and general legal principles. YOUR STATE MAY HAVE ITS OWN LAWS THAT PROVIDE SIMILAR OR GREATER PROTECTION. If I refer to your state's laws, that only means I did a quick Internet search and found something that appeared relevant. However, you should not rely on any comment I make regarding your state's law. You MUST check with an attorney licensed in your state.

    You probably won't like this answer, but your employer can lawfully schedule you and other employees for as many hours as the employer wants. The employer must pay you for all time worked, and if you work overtime, the employer must pay you at the appropriate overtime rate.

    The only exceptions are if your job is covered by a collective bargaining agreement (contract) between the employer and a union; if you have an individual contract with the employer that specifies different hours or different conditions under which your employer can make changes to your schedule; or if the employer is selecting people for longer hours based on race, sex, age (40 and over), or other protected basis.

    Please look at my Avvo guide to at-will employment which may help you understand your rights now and in the future:

    There are various sources of POTENTIAL protection for an emotional distress condition.

    If the condition meets the definition of a serious medical condition as that is defined by law, you may have some rights under the FMLA. Please look at my Avvo guide on the Family and Medical Leave Act, 29 U.S.C. section 2101 et seq. (FMLA) to see if that law applies in your situation:

    If the condition meets the definition of disability as defined by law, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. sections 12101 et seq. (ADA) may provide some protection. Please look at my Avvo guide on the ADA:

    Also, your state may have additional laws that protect employees in your situation, but as I am not licensed in your state, I cannot advise you on this. Please contact an attorney licensed in your state.

    Finally, as your condition is caused by work, your state's workers' compensation laws may provide some relief.

    Employment law is complicated and fact specific. You may wish to consult with an experienced plaintiffs employment attorney in your state. To find a plaintiffs employment attorney in your area, please go to the web site of the National Employment Lawyers Association (NELA). NELA is the largest and most influential bar association in the country for attorneys who represent working people. The web site is, and you can search for attorneys by location and practice area.

    Also, NELA has affiliates in every state and in many cities. On the NELA web site, you can look at the list of affiliates. Some attorneys will be listed in the affiliate membership list, some in the national organization membership list, and some in both. Being listed in one or both lists should not influence your selection because attorneys can choose whether or not to purchase the listing in the national directory. Each local affiliate has its own rules for listing.

    *** All legal actions have time limits, called statutes of limitation. If you miss the deadline for filing your... more

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