If you have to quit because work conditions are so intolerable, you may have a claim for constructive discharge.
In some employment law cases, the fact scenario is simple. For example, Mary files a complaint for sexual harassment and is promptly fired. But in other situations, the employer doesn’t fire a worker outright. Instead, they take steps to make their employee feel like they have no choice but to quit. If Mary’s boss didn’t fire her, but changed her shifts and cut her hours to the point that Mary felt like that she to quit, then Mary may have a claim for wrongful termination — even though she wasn’t actually fired.
According to a California employment lawyer, this is known as constructive discharge. In essence, it occurs when an employer intentionally creates or knowingly permits work conditions that are so intolerable or aggravated that a reasonable employer would realize that a reasonable person in their employee’s position would have no choice to resign. In other words, your boss made your work life miserable to the point that you felt like you had to quit.
Constructive discharge is not always grounds for a lawsuit, however. In some cases, your boss may make your working conditions intolerable just because he doesn’t really like you and wants you to quit. Because most non-union employees in California are at-will, they can be fired without cause — unless the reason is illegal, such as due to a person’s race or national origin. As long as your employer doesn’t have an illegal reason to try to make you quit, then you probably don’t have a claim for constructive discharge.
However, as a California employment lawyer can explain, there are situations where constructive discharge is wrongful — and so you may have the right to file a legal claim against your employer. If you could have sued your employer for wrongful termination if they had fired you, but you were constructively discharged instead, then you can file a claim for wrongful constructive discharge.
Consider a case where John has worked at a company for over 25 years. His bosses want to bring in younger employees, in part because they can pay them far less than someone with John’s seniority. They know that if they fire John, he’ll have a claim for age discrimination. So they decide to make his work conditions intolerable instead — getting other employees to ostracize him, taking away equipment that he needs to do his job, and more. John quits as a result. Because his employer would have been liable for an age discrimination/wrongful termination lawsuit if they had fired him, John can file a legal claim for wrongful constructive discharge.
Constructive discharge cases can be complicated, as there is always a question of what makes working conditions truly intolerable (as opposed to merely unpleasant). Your California employment lawyer must also be able to demonstrate that your employer either intentionally created or knowingly allowed someone else to create intolerable working conditions. However, with a skilled attorney advocating on your behalf, you may be able to successfully pursue a claim against your employer.
At PLBSH, we are dedicated to helping employees seek justice. For more than 50 years, we have represented workers who have been subjected to discrimination, retaliation, wrongful termination, and more. Contact our firm today at (800) 435-7542 or firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a consultation with a California employment lawyer.