Thursday, February 26, 2015

Unbearable Working Conditions: Understanding Constructive Discharge

Hearing the words “you’re fired” or receiving the pink slip are the two things that are commonly associated with termination. Unsurprisingly, this is one of the most inevitable episodes of one’s employment, especially if the individual is found to have violated one or many of the policies of the company. Frequent absences or excessive tardiness, poor work performance, and other similar reasons often result in an employee getting terminated.

However, there are instances wherein the reason for an employee’s termination is considered illegal under the prevailing employment and labor laws. Even with the “at will” employment doctrine applied, in which an employee can be fired at any time with or without reason, a covered employer must not make the decision based on what is prohibited under such laws as the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and others.

Wrongful termination is what happens in these kinds of instances. An employer is guilty of such if its decision to fire an employee is based on what is deemed illegal under the law or under certain policies which are considered within the society as morally wrong. For the most part, the decision is carried out to the employee either verbally or in writing.

But then, there is also another form of wrongful termination that is very much different in the way it is carried out. Instead of handing it down to the affected employee via verbal reminder or in writing, the employer subjects him or her to unbearable working conditions, also popularly known as “hostile work environment.” This is called constructive discharge.

Here, the employee is forced to quit his or her job because of the hostile working environment within the workplace. The employer, who should have been responsible in addressing the workplace situation, kept it as it is until it grew worse to the point that the employee has no other recourse but to resign from his or her job position.

No matter how many times an employee wants to have his or her employer to put an end on all of this, the discrimination, harassment, or retaliation continues on until the employer quits. Because it is technically not voluntary, it is considered termination, without the employer uttering the words “you’re fired” or even handing the individual a termination letter.

But just like any other victim of wrongful termination, someone who has been subjected to constructive dismissal in employment is entitled to file legal claims against his or her employer. However, it is important for the individual to understand certain instances which warrants a claim for constructive discharge. These include the following:

  • Sexual harassment by the boss, manager, supervisor, or any other immediate superior;
  • Continuous maltreatment of an employee on the basis of his or her age, race, sex, national origin, religion, disability, or any other protected characteristic defined under federal and state employment and labor laws;
  • Employer retaliation as a result of an employee’s exercise of protected activity such as filing a discrimination or harassment complaint with the appropriate agency or filing a complaint of an employer’s illegal activity with a government or law enforcement agency; or
  • Change in duties or continued maltreatment because an employee filed for a leave of absence under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or any other similar state laws.

Meanwhile, if you quit your job because of an alleged hostile work environment, it is important that you seek legal assistance immediately. Speaking with a Los Angeles wrongful termination lawyer helps you determine if you have a constructive discharge claim against your employer.