What is Constructive Discharge?

Constructive discharge is a type of wrongful termination that occurs when the conditions surrounding a worker’s job become so unbearable that he is compelled to quit.  In these situations, although the employee often submits a formal resignation, his resignation is not truly voluntary because it was caused by unfair or unreasonable working conditions or an unbearable working environment.  Therefore, the reality of the situation is not that employee resigned, bur rather, that the employee was wrongfully terminated.

 

Not all cases of constructive discharge are legally actionable.  In order to have a legal claim based on a constructive discharge, the employee must have been forced to quit due to particularly outrageous or heinous conduct by his employer.  This means that an employee cannot claim that he was constructively discharged because he quit his job after his employer or a coworker annoyed him or because he received a new job offer.  Instead, the employee must show that the employer acted unreasonably or committed an illegal act such as employment discrimination, harassment, or retaliation.  The specific conduct that causes the employee to quit can be based on either a single instance or a series of events that occur over a period of time.

 

To prove constructive discharge, a worker must demonstrate facts that distinguish his termination from a traditional resignation.  Proving this point is important, because a worker who is constructively discharged may have different rights from an employee who has resigned.  These rights may include access to unemployment insurance benefits, but the employee may first have to show that resigning was the employee’s only reasonable option.

 

Every situation that causes a constructive discharge is different, and the distress an employee feels prior to quitting may vary drastically.  Some situations may be more unbearable than others, and many workers may contemplate quitting their jobs for a long time before finally resigning.  If you have been treated unfairly or unreasonably in the workplace and are considering quitting or have already quit your job, contacting an experienced employment attorney to talk about your situation may be your best option.  With a lawyer’s assistance, you can fight back against the unfair treatment by exercising your legal rights.