If your employer facilitates workplace conditions so intolerable that you feel compelled to quit your job, you may have a constructive discharge claim. Depending on the nature of the workplace conditions, you may also have additional claims for discrimination, retaliation, or another employment law matter.
What Is Constructive Discharge?
In California, constructive discharge refers to a situation in which an employer coerces an employer into quitting their job, whether by resignation or retirement. The defining feature of a constructive discharge is a work environment created by an employer for the purpose of driving one or more employees to quit.
Employers may be motivated to compel an employee to quit when they fear an outright termination could create liability for wrongful termination. They may also be motivated to financially harm an employee, knowing that the employee can’t open an unemployment claim if they quit their job.
Are Wrongful Termination & Constructive Discharge the Same?
No – although an employee may be entitled to seek damages in both instances, they are different.
The distinction between wrongful termination and constructive discharge depends on who ends the employment relationship. If an employee terminates an employee for an illegal reason, a wrongful termination has occurred. If the employee quits after feeling forced out of the company by the employer, this is a constructive discharge.
What Is an Example of Constructive Discharge?
It might be easier to understand constructive discharge by way of an example, such as the one below.
It’s illegal to fire someone who’s 40 or older because of their age. A company concerned with having a younger staff knows it can’t outright terminate its older employees without creating liability for wrongful termination. Instead, the company might harass older employees about retirement or otherwise make it clear that the company doesn’t appreciate having older employees around.
In this case, an older employee who quits their job may have a constructive discharge claim because the company took measures to degrade the employee’s working conditions to an intolerable degree.
Other examples of constructive discharge might include the following:
- Penalization for an unfair performance rating
- Change an hourly employee’s schedule from full-time to part-time
- Reducing an employee’s salary or bonus
- Making an employee’s job more difficult than their peers’
- Receiving unfair treatment, even if such treatment is legal
Can I Get Unemployment After a Constructive Discharge?
Yes. Normally, employees aren’t entitled to unemployment benefits when they voluntarily resign from their jobs. If an employee proves they were a victim of a constructive discharge, however, they can become eligible for unemployment benefits.
We Can Help You with Your Legal Claim
If you feel you were compelled to leave your job due to unfair pressure or illegal behavior at your previous employer, you may have a constructive discharge claim. Our legal team at K2 Employment Law can evaluate your claim and help you determine the next step to take.
For more information or to request a free consultation, contact K2 Employment Law online.