Not everyone who leaves a job does so voluntarily. Sometimes, workers feel immense pressure to escape a work environment that is unfair, hostile or dangerous.
When an employer essentially forces an employee to quit, the resignation signifies constructive discharge, which is a type of wrongful termination. Constructive discharge makes it look like the employee chose to quit on paper – even if the actual circumstances of the departure involved harassment, discrimination, retaliation and other problems.
Constructive discharge is a tactic that gives the employer more protection against criticism for discrimination or retaliation. However, employers are not entirely immune to accountability. Former employees can still speak up.
Employers can make quitting the only reasonable option
Regardless of whether the intent was to force an employee to quit, an employer may have created conditions that were unreasonable and intolerable, such as:
- Decreasing your pay or demoting you
- Unfair work assignments or team reassignment
- Pressure to retire early
- Verbal or physical harassment
Furthermore, the employee must link these actions to discrimination against a protected class. For example, if you have a disability and your employer refused reasonable accommodations, you might feel that you have no choice but to quit the job for the sake of your health.
Constructive discharge claims are difficult but significant
Although it can be challenging to prove constructive discharge, these claims are important to employees. Without proving constructive discharge, you might not be able to claim unemployment and other benefits. In addition, you would not receive compensation for the damages that you suffered, such as back pay.
Set the record straight after you lose a job due to a hostile or discriminatory work environment. A qualified employment law attorney can evaluate whether you have a claim and help you gather the evidence you need.