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Constructive discharge may be wrongful termination

At times, an employee may feel unhappy enough at work to consider resigning. Perhaps the supervisor unfairly criticizes the worker in a performance review. Maybe co-workers are rude and hostile. An employee can feel upset when inappropriate language or remarks demean the individual's gender, ethnicity or religious beliefs.

Dangerous situations arise when an employer insists that a worker must perform illegal acts on behalf of the company. Alternatively, perhaps a manager or co-worker assaulted the employee or threatened the person with violence. Maybe the worker has an impossible workload requiring heavy overtime and constant pressure to complete tasks.

How is an employee constructively discharged?

In everyday speech, constructive actions are positive. Those who have a constructive attitude want to solve problems or see the best in a situation. In law, however, "constructive" has a different meaning. It refers to something that is not obvious or that pretends to be something different from what the law states.

Constructive discharge means that an employee decides to permanently leave a job because working conditions there have become so impossible that any reasonable person would quit. A worker who is in this situation may not understand that the company is at fault. Cases of constructive discharge occur when a company wants to force an employee to quit. The company may even deliberately sabotage the person's ability to work.

How does wrongful termination occur?

When the worker finally gives up and walks away, the company has effectively "fired" the person, even though the manager pretends it was the worker's idea to quit. In reality, the company behaved wrongfully. They forced the worker out of a job when the person did nothing wrong.

A claim of constructive discharge must involve specific experiences, such as the following:

  • The unfair behavior relentlessly persists over time.
  • Other employees do not receive any unfair or offensive treatment.
  • Management or HR ignores the distressed employee's complaints.
  • The person's workload is significantly heavier than that of others.
  • A boss withholds items necessary for the employee to work productively.
  • The manager shuts down communication, and other employees do the same.
  • The supervisor publicly humiliates, scolds or micromanages the person.

Employees who are being groomed to quit should not resign without first consulting an expert about their legal options. Workers deserve to pursue justice when an unethical, illegal situation threatens them. 

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