Experiencing discrimination or harassment in the workplace is not only unfair and unlawful, but it is often distressing as well.
The distress from these experiences can have a significant impact on the targeted employee. An employee might dread going into work or fear retaliation if they report the incident. These emotional responses to discrimination are all too common and they can have considerable consequences to the employee’s mental health.
Recent studies connect discrimination with serious mental health effects
Unfortunately, an incident of discrimination can occur at any time, such as in a restaurant or even out walking on the street. And although it is illegal for employers to discriminate against employees, the workplace is still an environment where discrimination occurs frequently.
Over the years, several studies have linked experiences of discrimination – both within and outside of the workplace – with higher risks to one’s mental health. For example, it could lead to:
- Increased levels of stress, which can lead to physical and mental health concerns;
- Higher chances of developing anxiety disorders; and
- A higher chance of suffering depression.
One of the studies states that one of the primary reasons individuals face higher stress levels and mental health risks is due to the fact that they:
- Experienced discrimination in the past; and
- Fear that it could happen again.
This experience and fear for the future can actually alter their cognitive functions and significantly interfere with individuals’ daily lives.
What can employees do when facing such distress?
Individuals who experience discrimination in the workplace may seek justice for the unfair treatment they faced. In these cases, they can collect lost wages and compensation – including damages for emotional distress.
Not many people are aware of this, but both New Jersey and federal laws allow individuals to pursue these kinds of damages when they face discrimination that causes significant harm.
It is important to note that it can be a challenge for employees to prove they suffered emotional distress. After all, they must connect their distress to the incident of discrimination. However, it can help if individuals:
- Keep a record of their emotional state and how it impacts their daily life;
- Obtain testimony from friends and family regarding their mental health; and
- Have medical professionals testify, such as a therapist they saw after the incident.
Facing discrimination at work can be incredibly painful, but individuals do have the option to recover damages for the illegal and unfair treatment they experienced.