What is Constructive Discharge?

Getting terminated by your employer can be shocking and disappointing, but you might qualify for certain benefits afterward, including unemployment benefits. Further, if your employer had an unlawful reason for firing you, it can be possible to seek relief by taking action for wrongful termination. On the other hand, if you quit your job voluntarily, you generally do not qualify for unemployment benefits, and a wrongful termination claim is not possible.

Some employees, however, quit their jobs under certain circumstances that still allow them to proceed as if they were terminated. This is referred to as constructive discharge, and, simply put, this happens when an employee quits their job due to an intolerable working environment created by or allowed by their employer.

Reasons for Constructive Discharge

Sometimes, employers might try to get an employee to quit instead of terminating them. In other cases, an employer might fail to take steps to maintain a proper working environment, forcing an employee to have no other option than to quit.

Some reasons that constructive discharge happens include:

  • There is an employment contract that prohibits the employer from terminating the employee without cause
  • The employer does not have the courage to fire the employee for various reasons
  • The employer wants to avoid a possible increase in unemployment insurance rates

Sometimes, an employee quits because their employer failed to do something, such as respond to a sexual harassment complaint properly.

Constructive Discharge Due to Sexual Harassment

One form of unlawful sexual harassment at work is a hostile work environment. This occurs when harassing conduct is so pervasive or offensive that it creates an unreasonable work environment in which the employee is expected to work.

When an employee complains to a supervisor or the human resources department about sexual harassment, the employer is expected to take the necessary steps to stop the conduct and prevent a hostile work environment. If the hostile work environment is allowed to continue, the victim of harassment might decide they have no other choice but to quit. When this happens, it is considered to be a constructive discharge.

Proving Constructive Discharge

After a constructive discharge, it is important to take action to ensure that you receive the relief that you deserve under the law. Such relief can include:

  • Qualifying for unemployment benefits
  • Back pay and benefits you would have earned if you had not been forced to quit your job
  • Legal expenses
  • Other applicable damages, including for emotional distress

In order to recover damages, you must prove that your employer either purposely created or knowingly permitted a work environment that was so unreasonable or intolerable that a reasonable employer would know that any reasonable employee would feel forced to leave.

You can expect that employers will say anything to defend against such claims, so any employees who were forced to quit should always have the right California sexual harassment attorney representing them and proving their claims. Employees should never feel required to quit due to sexual harassment and deserve full financial recovery from their former employers.

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