What Is Constructive Dismissal?

What Is Constructive Dismissal

Also known as constructive termination or discharge, a constructive dismissal is a type of wrongful termination claim. A constructive dismissal occurs when employers make the work conditions so poor that an employee is forced to quit. In order for a claim to qualify, the employer’s actions must have been illegal or in violation of an employment contract. The experienced employment law attorneys at Swartz Swidler may be able to help you if your resignation was a constructive dismissal.

Understanding constructive dismissal

When an employee resigns because of the intolerability of their working conditions, it may be a constructive dismissal. if the employee had no reasonable alternative and the employer’s actions were prohibited, the employee may have grounds to file a constructive dismissal claim even though he or she quit.

For legal purposes, the employee’s resignation is considered to be an involuntary termination that was caused by the conduct of the employer and is treated as if it was a firing. A claim for constructive dismissal may lie when the employer’s conduct was unlawful or a breach of an employment contract.

Proving constructive dismissal

In order to prove a constructive dismissal claim, an employee will have to prove the following:

  • The conditions were so intolerable that a reasonable employee would have felt that he or she had to resign; and
  • The employer had actual knowledge of the intolerable working conditions or intended to force the employee to quit.

In general, a pattern of egregious and extraordinary conduct will be needed before it will be considered to constitute a constructive dismissal. In rare cases, a single action may constitute enough proof. An example of these cases might include an employer committing a violent act against the employee or the employer requiring the employee to commit a crime.

Courts consider several factors when deciding whether an employer’s actions were egregious enough to cause a constructive dismissal, including the following:

  • Whether the employer asked the employee to commit a crime;
  • Whether the employer investigated the complaints made by the employee;
  • The nature of the illegal conduct; and
  • How much time passed between the illegal conduct and the employee resigning.

Reasonable person standard

Courts also look at whether or not a reasonable person who was in a similar position as the employee would find that the conditions were intolerable. If a reasonable person would not, the employee’s resignation will be considered to be voluntary.

Employer knowledge

An employee must be able to show that his or her employer either maintained or created an intolerable working environment or that the employer knew that the conditions existed. Employees have the burden of notifying management about the conditions so that the employer has the ability to take corrective action. If the notification does not occur, a claim for constructive dismissal will not be successful.

Contact our experienced lawyers

Proving that a constructive dismissal happened may be complicated. If you believe that you were forced to quit for an illegal reason or in violation of your employment contract, call the law firm of Swartz Swidler today.