If an employer has ever fired you, you may have felt shock or relief, depending on the situation. Whether the job was a good one or a bad one, getting fired means losing your income and having to restart the frustrating process of looking for new employment.
On the other hand, it is likely that you have quit one or even several jobs in your lifetime. In the best circumstance, you are moving up to a better opportunity, and you are likely sincerely grateful to your former boss. In the worst circumstances, you leave your job because it has become an intolerable place to work. If the latter is the case, you may be a victim of constructive discharge.
What is constructive discharge?
If your workplace has become unbearable because of discrimination, harassment or other actions, you may have endured it as long as you can. However, everyone has a breaking point, and you may feel you have no alternative but to resign for your own mental and physical health. Of course, quitting your job voluntarily means you are not eligible to collect unemployment benefits, and you may not file a lawsuit for wrongful termination against your former boss. However, there may be another option.
You may be able to file a lawsuit and seek unemployment benefits if you claim constructive discharge. With constructive discharge, you are not technically leaving your job voluntarily since the work environment or your employer’s actions compelled you to quit. To claim constructive discharge, you must contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission with your complaint as soon as possible after turning in your resignation to your employer. Be aware that there is a statute of limitations for making such claims.
Be ready for the defense
Most states, including California, have at-will employment, which means that, unless your contract states otherwise, you can quit your job without a reason. You should be prepared to show proof of the hostile circumstances that led to your resignation. For your claim of constructive discharge to be successful, you must meet the burden of proof, such as showing documentation of abuse or discrimination at work and of your attempts to take the proper steps to resolve those issues.
You should be ready to explain why you stayed at your job for so long and why other employees are not making similar claims of discrimination or harassment. Of course, you are likely to face your former employer’s denial of your claims, which may feel intimidating. However, learning as much as you can about the process and its possible outcomes may help you decide the most appropriate course of action.