“It Was So Bad I Had to Quit!” Understanding Constructive Discharge

The law clearly prohibits harassment at work based on protected factors, including sexual harassment or harassment due to race, religion, gender, age, disability, and more. Unfortunately, many employees still have to deal with harassing conduct day in and day out in the workplace, and employers might do little or nothing to stop it. There might come a time when an employee decides they simply cannot tolerate working in that environment anymore, and they decide to quit.

Quitting your job can be a difficult decision to make, but you have important legal rights if you felt forced to quit due to a hostile work environment caused by harassment. This is referred to under the law as “constructive discharge,” and you should discuss what happened with an experienced workplace sexual harassment attorney as soon as possible.

Hostile Work Environments Due to Harassment

Harassing conduct can vary from situation to situation, though when conduct is offensive or pervasive enough, it can result in a hostile work environment. If you report the conduct to your employer, the law requires them to take steps to stop the harassment from continuing. If your employer fails to effectively do so, and the hostile work environment persists, the conduct rises to the level of unlawful harassment.

Some employees continue to work in a hostile work environment for many reasons. Some reasons you might consider include:

  • It can be difficult to find another job in your industry
  • You might worry that your employer will give a poor review due to your complaints of harassment
  • You assume you will be ineligible for unemployment benefits if you voluntarily quit

While quitting your job can always be a difficult decision, your rights are different in the context of constructive discharge. If you’re considering leaving a job because the harassment has become unbearable, you can always review your options with an experienced employment attorney.

How Constructive Discharge is Different

If you quit because your work environment was unbearable, it is considered to be a form of wrongful termination. Your quitting is considered to be involuntary if a reasonable person would have found the work environment to be intolerable. This is a very different situation from quitting voluntarily.

The following might be true in this situation:

  • You should qualify for unemployment benefits
  • Your employer should be prohibited from retaliating against you for exercising your right to complain about harassment, which includes not giving poor recommendations
  • You can take action against your employer for the hostile work environment harassment, as well as wrongful termination

When you take action against your employer, you can seek damages for the harm caused by the harassment and your constructive discharge. This might include lost wages, lost employment opportunities, emotional distress, and more.

Each situation is different, and it might be wise to discuss plans to quit your job with a harassment attorney first. They can review your situation and provide advice regarding your next steps to get away from a hostile work environment. If you have already quit due to intolerable working conditions, an attorney can stand up for your rights.

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