Category Archives: Wrongful Termination

Were You Forced To Quit? Understanding Constructive Discharge

Were You Forced To Quit- Understanding Constructive Discharge

It is fairly common for some employees to quit their jobs because they find the working conditions to be intolerable. A constructive discharge occurs when an employee is forced to quit because of working conditions that are illegal. Even if you quit your job, you may have valid grounds to file a wrongful termination lawsuit if your employer attempted to force you out for illegal reasons. The attorneys at Swartz Swidler may be able to help you to determine whether or not you have the grounds for a lawsuit.

What is a constructive discharge?

If you felt that the conditions at your job were so bad that your only choice was to quit, it is a constructive discharge. Under the law, you will be treated as having been fired because you were pushed out.

Proving that you had no choice but to quit

In order to prevail on a constructive discharge claim, you will need to be able to prove the following elements:

  • The working conditions that you were subjected to were illegal.
  • You filed a complaint about the conditions, but the conditions continued.
  • The conditions were so poor that any reasonable person in your position would have quit.
  • You quit your job because of the poor treatment that you received.

If you prevail in a claim of constructive discharge, you will be able to recover monetary damages from your former employer.

Proving that your constructive discharge was illegal

A majority of employees are at will, meaning that their employers can fire them at any time as long as the reason for doing so is not illegal. Simply proving that you were forced to quit is not enough. You must also prove that the reason that you were forced to quit were illegal. Examples of illegal reasons could include ongoing sexual harassment, retaliation for complaints and others.

Discrimination and harassment

If you are a member of a protected class and were discriminated against by your employer or coworkers, you may have a constructive discharge case if you quit because of it. You may want to ask your lawyers at Swartz Swidler if you have sufficient grounds under this basis.

Retaliation

Employers are prohibited under multiple state and federal laws from retaliating against workers for engaging in a protected activity. This may include filing discrimination complaints, applying for workers’ compensation benefits, whistleblowing or complaining about sexual harassment. If your employer took any adverse job action against you, you may have the grounds to sue.

Breach of contract

If you were employed under a contract that stated that you could only be fired for cause, you may be able to sue your employer for breaching the contract if he or she forced you to quit.

Potential damages

If you prevail on your claim, your employer will have to pay you monetary damages. The damages that might be available to you will depend on why your employer forced you to quit. You may be entitled to the following:

  • Back pay
  • Front pay
  • Legal and attorney fees
  • Compensatory damages
  • Punitive damages if your employer’s actions were especially egregious
  • Unemployment Benefits

Employees who quit their jobs voluntarily are normally ineligible for unemployment benefits. However, you may be able to collect them if your quitting was a constructive discharge. You will need to explain that you quit because of your employer mistreating you when you apply.

Contact an attorney

Proving a constructive discharge claim may be difficult. If you believe that your employer forced you to quit because of an illegal reason, contact Swartz Swidler to learn more about the rights that you might have.

When, How, And Why An Employer Can Fire An Employee

When, How, And Why An Employer Can Fire An Employee

At some point, most businesses must let some employees go. There are certain things that employers can and cannot do when they are terminating an employee. By understanding the employee termination process, you can better protect yourself if you are at risk of termination. The employment attorneys at Swartz Swidler might be able to help you if you are terminated illegally.

The primary types of termination

There are three primary ways that employers go about terminating an employee, including at-will termination, downsizing and for-cause termination. At-will termination involves a termination without cause. Most employees are at-will workers. in at-will termination states, employers may fire you for any reason at any time, and you may leave your job at any time and for any reason. There are certain prohibited reasons that employers may not base their termination decisions on, however. Employers are prohibited from firing workers based on their membership in certain protected classes.

If you are terminated for cause, this means that your employer has a reason to end your employment. This might including consistent tardiness or other problematic behaviors. People who have employee contracts may sometimes only be fired if their employers have grounds to fire them. Employers who use employee contracts must provide valid reasons for terminating an employee who is protected by a contract.

Downsizing includes layoffs and other similar situations that may lead an employer to terminate multiple employees in order to protect the business. When there is a downturn in the economy, businesses may go through multiple rounds of layoffs in order to reduce their costs.

What to expect during the employee termination process

Employers who fire employees must follow the guidelines they have established in their employee handbooks. If they do not have specific termination procedures outlined, the termination process may vary depending on what has happened.

You may receive a notice of termination from your employer. Sending these types of letters help businesses to protect themselves if your termination is later scrutinized. Most termination letters include a brief listing of the reason or reasons for the termination along with instructions for the return of property. Employers are not required to give written termination notices. You may instead be called into your boss’s office to talk about it. You can ask questions about the company’s reasoning or ask to have a third-party witness present.

Some businesses may have a manager or security officer escort a fired employee off of the business’s property. This type of policy is meant to protect the business and not as a reflection on your character. Your company may ask you to complete an exit interview at which you and your employer will be able to talk about the reasons for your termination.

The employment attorneys at Swartz Swidler advise you to take care when you are answering questions during an exit interview, whether it is oral or by questionnaire, about your feelings regarding your job and the termination. If you don’t want to answer a question, politely refuse.

Can employees be fired on the spot?

On-the-spot firings may happen immediately after an employee makes a mistake or engages in unacceptable behavior. They are not illegal unless they are contractually prohibited or are performed in a manner that violates your civil rights.

When is a termination wrongful?

When an employer fires you for a reason that is not legal, a wrongful termination has occurred. There are several types of wrongful termination:

  • Termination that is discriminatory

There are some classes that are protected under federal employment laws as well as the state laws of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. If your employer fired you because of your race, religion, disability, pregnancy status, gender, national origin or other protected class, you may have been wrongfully terminated. The attorneys at Swartz Swidler might help you to recover damages if you have been terminated based on an illegally discriminatory reason.

  • Retaliatory termination

If you are fired because you reported illegal activities or joined a union, your termination may be wrongful. Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who report illegal behavior to government agencies. Employees who do this are called whistleblowers, and there are a number of whistleblower protection laws that protect employees who do engage in whistleblowing. Employers may face substantial penalties when they retaliate against whistleblowers.

  • Termination in breach of contract

If a person is terminated in breach of an employment contract, it may be a wrongful termination. It is not as common as the other types of wrongful termination, however. If you have a contract, you will want to make certain that you understand it to know what your rights under it are. If you believe that you may have been the victim of a wrongful termination, schedule an appointment with the attorneys at Swartz Swidler today.