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What Is Constructive Discharge?

November 8th, 2022
Philadelphia Employment Lawyers at The Gold Law Firm P.C. Represent Workers Who Have Been Forced to Quit.

Many full-time workers across the U.S. spend more time at work than at home, so when work becomes intolerable, they can feel overwhelmed. A stressful work environment can cause a slew of problems. That is why people working in a hostile work environment are more likely to quit than to allow themselves to reach their breaking point.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects workers from discrimination, including harassment, based on any identifying characteristic that is considered a protected class. This includes but is not limited to religion, sex, gender, race, and national origin, however, there are gray areas. One gray area becomes apparent when an employee quits rather than face a hostile work environment. In some cases, an employee might feel as though they are being forced to quit, also known as constructive discharge.

Constructive discharge is a legal term that describes a situation in which the actions of an employer or the work environment becomes so hostile or intolerable that a worker feels compelled to quit. For a person to demonstrate that constructive discharge took place, the evidence must show that any reasonable person in similar circumstances would quit.

Additionally, a constructive demotion is when an employee accepts a demotion under similar circumstances. In other words, asking an employee to take a step down as a result of a hostile work environment is considered an adverse action. An example would be an employee being forced to take a demotion after complaining of harassment.   

What Are Examples of Constructive Discharge?

Any egregious occurrence or unreasonable work environment can present a case for constructive discharge. Examples include:

  • An employee who quits because of being discriminated against or harassed without the employer doing anything about it.
  • An employee being treated inequitably, an example of which is receiving a reduction in pay without justification.
  • A worker being subjected to a hostile work environment for complaining or filing a report, which would be a direct result of an employer forcing an employee to quit.  

How Can Constructive Discharge Be Proven?

As with wrongful termination, the burden of proof is on the employee, along with their lawyer. There must be some evidence to support a case, such as a witness or a formal complaint. The employee must have been given the chance to rectify the situation, although there are a few exceptions, such as illegal activity. Most importantly, it must be shown that some type of law has been broken, such as what is described in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Benefits for a successful constructive discharge legal claim include backpay, lost benefits, reinstatement to the job with stipulations for the employer, attorney fees, and more.

Philadelphia Employment Lawyers at The Gold Law Firm P.C. Represent Workers Who Have Been Forced to Quit

If you were forced to quit a job or take a demotion, one of our experienced Philadelphia employment lawyers at The Gold Law Firm P.C. will protect your rights. Call us at 215-569-1999 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia and Pennsauken, New Jersey, we serve clients in South Jersey and Southeastern Pennsylvania, including Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, Northeast Philadelphia, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Lehigh County, and Montgomery County.

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