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Hostile work environment can lead to stress disorders

The effects of harassment in the workplace are not always confined to the work environment itself. In fact, people who experience a hostile work environment or suffer the inappropriate actions and comments of coworkers or employers often suffer undue stress as a result. In the case of one California woman, this stress necessitated a medical leave of absence.

According to report by Forbes, a financial analyst for Pacificare Health Systems Inc. was subjected to a hostile work environment and suffered sexual harassment at the hands of a colleague. The woman immediately reported the incidents to her superiors, but the action was never addressed and her request for help apparently went ignored.

The harassment continued and the woman began to experience symptoms associated with emotional and psychological distress. She apparently often suffered panic attacks, experienced sleeplessness and anxiety, and even suffered depression and bouts of shaking.

After suffering five months of the abuse, the woman requested a medical leave of absence. She began to undergo treatment for her stress related illnesses associated with her hostile work environment and routinely updated her employers as to her status. Soon, however, the woman received a notice that she had been terminated.

A few months later, she filed a complaint against the company and several colleagues with the Superior Court of the State of California. In the complaint, the woman stated that she had suffered sexual harassment that went uncorrected and unaddressed. She also stated that she was discriminated against and suffered intentional emotional distress. She sought compensatory damages for emotional distress and other economic and non-economic losses, according to Forbes.

No employee should be subjected to a hostile work environment. And while people work as a means to earn a living, they shouldn't have to sacrifice their health and well-being for the sake of a job. The law mandates protection of employees in the workplace and legal counsel familiar with employment law may be able to provide victims with information and advice on putting an end to their suffering.

Source: The Forbes, "Damages For Distress from Harassment Taxable," The Forbes Staff, Aug 09, 2011

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