Constructive dismissal is when an employer creates or allows working conditions which are so bad that they cause an employee to quit their position. This must be done intentionally by the employer. In other words, the employer must have created or allowed the working environment for the purpose of making the employee resign. This is very similar to a wrongful termination case, as the employee did not willfully resign, but rather was forced to do so due to the working conditions.
Some constructive dismissal cases result from conditions involving employment discrimination, sexual harassment, denial of benefits, wage/hour disputes, or retaliation against employee who has filed a complaint for a violation. Constructive dismissal is sometimes called constructive discharge.
How Is Constructive Dismissal Proven?
Liability for constructive dismissal generally requires proof that:
- The employer acted purposefully and intentionally in allowing or creating the work conditions
- The work conditions caused damages to the plaintiff
- The plaintiff resigned shortly after the conduct occurred or while the conduct was ongoing, thus showing that the conditions were the cause of the resignation
- A reasonable person would have quit their job if faced with similar conditions
It is important to note that the employee’s conduct is generally not an issue when proving constructive dismissal. On the other hand, the employee’s conduct can sometimes reduce liability (for instance, if the employee’s actions led to their own resignation or to an actual termination).
What Are Some Defenses to Constructive Dismissal?
There may be some defenses to constructive dismissal claims. These may include:
- Employer has acted exactly within their rights as stated in an employment contract
- Lack of evidence to support the claim
- No link between the employer’s actions and the employee’s resignation (for instance, if the employer did not intend to have the employee quit but was simply negligent in allowing the conditions)
- Employee fraud (i.e., employee has falsified information to make it appear as if they were forced to quit)
As mentioned above, the employee’s own conduct can sometimes reduce the liability of the employer.
Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with Constructive Dismissal Defenses?
Constructive dismissal cases can often involve some serious claims. You may need to hire an employment lawyer if you need help defending against any types of constructive dismissal claims. Your attorney can help you research the issue and can represent you if you need to make an appearance in court. Also, if you have any questions or concerns, your attorney can provide you with a response for your inquiry.