As young people are joining the workforce and beginning their adult lives, too many young people are finding barriers of racism and discrimination that have been upheld for centuries and maintained through generations. These barriers are prohibiting them from working in a healthy environment or finding opportunities in which to succeed. For young adults who are trying to work and build lives for themselves, discrimination and racism in the workplace can be especially debilitating, as financial needs require that they work in a stress-inducing and health-impacting environment. As a result, their growth to become healthy, stable adults can be greatly restricted.
Emotional Distress Claims Due to Discrimination
When anyone seeks to litigate their discrimination claims, many attorneys will also include claims for emotional distress that stem from the discrimination and resulting trauma their clients have endured. However, proving a claim of emotional distress is very difficult. A claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress requires “extreme and outrageous” conduct, which is conduct that is “so atrocious that it passes the boundaries of decency and is utterly intolerable to the civilized community.” Hubbard v. United Press Int’l, Inc., 330 N.W.2d 428, 438-39 (Minn. 1983). Severe emotional distress resulting from an intentional infliction is distress “so severe that no reasonable person could be expected to endure it.” Id.
As more individuals and communities come forward to share the collective trauma that results from discrimination, courts are becoming more open to recognizing that discrimination against historically oppressed groups is qualitatively different from non-racial or non-discriminatory means of harassment because they conjure up the history of discrimination in this country. For example, in Taylor v. Metzger, a case that climbed to the New Jersey Supreme Court, the court found that a reasonable jury could find that the plaintiff suffered intentional infliction of emotional distress and was owed damages when his supervisor uttered a racial epithet against him. This court recognized that certain words and means of discrimination in the context of history carry a message of hatred, persecution, and degradation of certain groups.
Supporting Employees Who Have Been Discriminated Against
A new generation of young people are joining the work force and discovering the traumatic experience of not being safe from discrimination in the workplace. This daily trauma chips away at their physical and mental health. While they have more support and access to resources than their parents likely did, they also carry generations of trauma which bleeds into their lives and can detrimentally impact their opportunities for success.
Although these young people will likely carry this trauma throughout their lives, society’s gradual acknowledgement of this trauma is starting to grow and make progress towards preventing it in the future. Further, courts’ openness to recognizing the emotional distress that comes from discrimination is a crucial step in distinguishing the lingering impact and trauma that results from racism and discrimination. Although the courts have a long way to go in recognizing the legitimacy of emotional distress caused by discrimination and racism in the workplace, the recognition of these harms, especially among young people, is becoming more widely accepted. Those who decide to bring their claims to court are thus contributing to a future without discrimination-based trauma.
If you believe you have experienced racism and/or discrimination in your work place, please do not hesitate to contact us.