You may have heard the term but may not know exactly what it means. If you are an employee facing discrimination or harassment at work, you may be experiencing constructive discharge. Simply put, a constructive discharge is when an employer makes working conditions so unbearable it forces an employee to resign or retire. Employers will use tactics such as harassment or discrimination to make an employee leave on their own which relieves the employer from firing the employee when there may not be cause.
When an employee voluntarily quits, they do not have access to unemployment benefits and will likely not be able to sue their former employer for wrongful termination. This is not the case for constructive discharge because you would not have left the job voluntarily. Constructive discharge may look different from job to job, but generally some common examples would include:
- You suffer discrimination on such a persistent basis that the effects of it bring you to resign for your own well-being.
- Your employer does not address ongoing harassment and you feel you need to resign based on safety concerns.
- You are forced to take disability retirement when your employer does not make the proper accommodations to meet your medical disability.
The most important aspect of determining constructive discharge is proving that the working conditions you faced were so unbearable that it caused your resignation. The basis of proof can come in the form of how you documented the discrimination or harassment, if you spoke to a supervisor about your claims, or if you contacted human resources and no action was taken. Other issues you may have to explain include the timing of your resignation and how the misconduct you faced affected you to the point of resignation.
If you feel you have been treated unfairly at work and those actions were so egregious that you felt you needed to leave your job, you may be a victim of constructive discharge. If you have not already done so, you should talk about your situation with an employment expert that can work with you on deciding if you should take legal action.