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Constructive Discharge Lawyers

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What Is Constructive Discharge?

Constructive discharge is the voluntary termination of an employee caused by making the employee's working conditions so unbearable that the employee feels forced to leave. In other words, even though the employee technically quits, the employer may be considered to have wrongfully terminated the employee because of the intolerable conditions that compelled the employee to quit. This is treated similarly to a wrongful termination, since the employee’s resignation was not actually voluntary.

An example of constructive discharge is where an employer constantly harasses a worker in order to have them quit their job. A lot of times, the motivation in a constructive discharge case is motivated by factors such as discrimination or sexual harassment.

Constructive discharge cases may result in legal remedies such as; damages awards; reinstatement of the worker to their previous position; or a termination of the employer who caused the discharge.

How Can an Employee Prove Constructive Discharge?

The law of constructive discharge is complex and varies depending on the jurisdiction of the employer. In general, a constructive discharge claim must show that:

  • A recently changed working condition led to the employee’s resignation.
  • The changed working condition and the resignation occurred close enough in time to establish that the changed working condition caused the resignation.
  • A reasonable person in the employee's position would have found the working conditions intolerable and would quit under the same circumstances.
  • The employer allowed the change in working conditions even though it was foreseeable that any reasonable employee would quit.

It generally takes more than a few incidents to create the intolerable working conditions necessary for constructive discharge. Many states also require the worker resigned shortly after the incident or string of incidents occurred. Also, the conduct often doesn’t need to be coming from a person who has the authority to fire the employer.

Typical changes in working conditions that may lead to a constructive discharge lawsuit include:

  • Workplace bullying
  • Discrimination and/or harassment
  • Intolerable hostility towards an employee
  • Intolerable sexual harassment
  • Dramatic cuts in work hours, wages, or duties
  • Retaliation for reporting a wrongdoing or for whistle blowing
  • The humiliating demotion of an employee
  • Breaches of employment contract terms

Do I Need a Labor Lawyer for My Constructive Discharge Issue?

The type of relief available to an employee in a constructive discharge lawsuit depends on the jurisdiction the employee is located and the reason the employee quit. Moreover, constructive discharge law is complex and has undergone changes recently. Seek the advice of a labor attorney or employment lawyer in your jurisdiction before quitting so that you can verify your rights and duties.

Photo of page author Jose Rivera

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 12-04-2017 11:53 PM PST

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