Hopefully, you have never been fired—that is a discharge or termination. Sometimes, however, an employee has no reasonable alternative to quitting—that is a constructive discharge. The involuntary nature of the employee’s “quit” may enable him or her to claim the constructive discharge as an adverse employment action so as to maintain a claim for employment discrimination. An employee’s reasonable decision to resign because of unendurable working conditions is, for remedial purposes, equated to a formal discharge.
A constructive discharge occurs when an employer indirectly, but deliberately, makes an employee’s working conditions so intolerable that the employee is forced involuntarily to resign. The key points of inquiry are the employer’s intentional conduct and the intolerable level of the employee’s working conditions. The standard for evaluation is objective–how would a reasonable employee behave in the particular employee’s shoes? Subjective feelings as to the intolerable nature of the employee’s position cannot support a finding of constructive discharge.
In assessing a claim of constructive discharge, individual factors, standing alone, may be insufficient to carry the day. For this reason, the pertinent conditions are aggregated since a reasonable person encounters life’s circumstances cumulatively rather than individually. Some routine workplace events— e.g. a poor performance appraisal, lack of training, or increased job demands—are to be expected and do not support an inference that a reasonable person would be “compelled” to resign. The standard for constructive discharge goes beyond difficult or unpleasant working conditions.
As is so often the case in employment law, the presence of a constructive discharge depends upon the circumstances of the particular employee involved. If you feel that your employer deliberately made your work environment intolerable and that you were forced to quit, you should confer with a seasoned employment law litigator to determine your rights.
The employment law attorneys in the Westport, Connecticut office of Maya Murphy, P.C. have extensive experience in the negotiation and litigation of all sorts of employment-related disputes and assist clients from Greenwich, Stamford, New Canaan, Darien, Norwalk, Westport and Fairfield in resolving such issues. Please contact our offices at 203-221-3100.