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.
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.
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.