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. I give legal advice only in the course of an attorney-client relationship. Exchange of information through Avvo's Questions forum does not establish an attorney-client relationship with me. That relationship is established only by individual consultation and execution of a written agreement for legal services.
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: http://www.avvo.com/legal-guides/ugc/an-overview-of-at-will-employment-all-states.
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: http://www.avvo.com/pages/show?category_id=6&permalink=family-and-medical-leave-fmla-summary-of-key-provisions
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: http://www.avvo.com/legal-guides/ugc/employment-disability-protection-under-californias-fair-employment-and-housing-act-and-federal-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 www.nela.org, 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 claim, you will lose the opportunity to pursue your case. Please consult with an experienced employment attorney as soon as possible to better preserve your rights. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer provides information on Avvo as a service to the public, primarily when general information may be of assistance. Avvo is not an appropriate forum for an in-depth response or a detailed analysis. These comments are for information only and should not be considered legal advice. Legal advice must pertain to specific, detailed facts. No attorney-client relationship is created based on this information exchange. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer is licensed to practice law before all state and federal courts in California, and can appear before administrative agencies throughout the country. She is eligible to represent clients in other states on a pro hac vice basis. ***
Emotional distress caused by personal injury Types of personal injuries Employment Employment law and finances Workers' compensation Employee wages Employee wages and overtime pay Employee benefits Employment forms Employment contracts FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act) and employees Sick leave and work hours Full-time employment Lawsuits and disputes