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How does wrongful termination relate to constructive discharge?

| Apr 14, 2019 | Firm News |

Each workday in offices across America, employees may suffer bullying or harassment from co-workers or superiors until they can no longer endure working for the company. These employees, due to extreme stress, cannot continue to function in an increasingly hostile and degrading work environment.

Complaints to the worker’s Human Resources professional seldom bring results. HR personnel have an unfortunate conflict of interest. A company that may turn a blind eye to bullying and harassment pays their salary; therefore, HR balks at getting involved in a dispute between a low-level employee and the company that holds HR’s loyalty financially hostage.

To be fair to HR personnel, it is not easy for an employee to provide evidence of the harassment. Bullies are very good at hostile, provoking behavior when no one is around to see it. HR understandably may decline to stir up troubled waters unless they have solid evidence that something is wrong. 

How is discharge a constructive behavior? 

The word “constructive” suggests something that is “positive, useful or helpful” to the average person. In the practice of law, the term “constructive discharge” means that, when a person quits a job because of intolerable working conditions, it is the same as if the company fired that person. The legal reasoning is that the company’s cruelty forced the employee to quit.

It is common practice for some businesses to force older employees, whistleblowers or minority workers to quit by unsavory tactics such as bullying by management, harassment by co-workers through malicious gossip, derogatory comments or direct verbal insults to the person, sabotage of the employee’s work followed by an accusation of incompetence, or assigning more work than any person could complete during the workday. There are many devious ways a company can get rid of an older person who is making a good salary after years of employment so they can hire a young worker for less pay and fewer benefits. Employers who disapprove of a worker’s gender, religion, appearance or ethnic culture may force them out of the company. 

When does constructive discharge equal wrongful termination? 

The law protects people from wrongful dismissal by an employer. The company may try to say they had nothing to do with the employee’s decision to leave. Most reasonable workers will eventually leave a job when singled out for relentless, unfair treatment or public humiliation. The boss may micromanage or scold them like a child because a manager or company executive wants that person to quit. The person may experience offensive “jokes” or discriminatory remarks. The manager and co-workers may give the employee the silent treatment and withhold materials he or she needs to complete assigned duties.

When a worker ponders whether to quit an impossible job or has already walked away, it is important to consult an employment professional about legal options. An unethical company cannot get away with causing or tolerating abusive treatment. American workers have the right to dispute unfair employment tactics.