Constructive discharge is a type of wrongful termination that occurs when the conditions surrounding a worker’s job become so unbearable that they are compelled to quit.
In some situations, although an employee submits their resignation, it is not truly voluntary because it was caused by unfair or unreasonable working conditions or an unbearable working environment. In certain cases, the law can treat an employee’s resignation under duress or because of unreasonable circumstances as a “constructive discharge.” In such a case, the employee may have a claim for wrongful termination and may be entitled to other benefits they would not have if their resignation was truly voluntary (such as unemployment compensation).
In order to claim a constructive discharge under the law, an employee must prove that they were forced to quit due to particularly outrageous or heinous conduct by their employer. An employee cannot claim they were constructively discharged if they quit because of trivial reasons or annoyances. Instead, the employee must show that the employer acted obviously unreasonably or committed an illegal act such as employment discrimination, harassment, or retaliation. The worker must demonstrate facts to show that resigning was their only reasonable option.
One example of constructive discharge may be if an employer forces workers to engage in unsafe conduct or work in dangerous conditions without providing reasonable, appropriate safeguards or protective equipment. A court might find that a worker who quits rather than endangering the lives of themselves or others has been constructively discharged as a matter of law.
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. Some situations may be more unbearable than others; many workers contemplate quitting their jobs for a long time before finally resigning.
If you are considering quitting your job because of unfair or unsafe workplace conditions, contact an experienced employment attorney to talk about your situation. A lawyer can help you fight back against the unfair treatment by exercising your legal rights.