In today’s economy, people are usually scared to quit a terrible job for fear of waiting weeks or months to find a new one. In addition, if you quit your job, you are generally not eligible for unemployment compensation or other federal or state benefits. Instead, many employees suffer in miserable working conditions for fear of losing their income stream and healthcare benefits. Working in such conditions can take an emotional and physical toll.
In some cases the terrible working environment is not an accident. Some employers purposely mistreat employees in an effort to encourage them to quit. The employer could have a problem with confrontation and not want to fire the employee. The termination could be illegal under federal or state laws or an employment contract. Or the employer may fear the employee will get unemployment, which could cause an increase in the unemployment insurance rates.
The employer could, in that situation, make the job incredibly horrible, hoping that the employee will find another position or quit. If an employer makes a job miserable with the hopes that an employee will quit, a “constructive discharge” could have occurred. In that situation, the employee has legal rights. The employee could be eligible for wages, benefits, and legal expenses, in addition to other damages.
Not everyone who has a miserable job is entitled to claim that a constructive discharge has occurred. In order to make a successful constructive discharge claim, and employee must show that the working environment was truly horrible. A minor complaint with a boss, low pay, long hours, or an insignificant change in the job would probably not amount to a constructive discharge. However, if an employee was humiliated by the employer, sexually harassed, or physically abused, and the employee quits, a constructive discharge could have occurred.
In addition to constructive discharge claims, some employees have other legal claims because of bad working conditions. An employee who is harassed at work because of religion, disability, race, sex, color, sexual orientation or similar reasons, the employee may also have other claims against the employer.
In some situations, it is very tough to know if a constructive discharge has happened or not. Many people work in terrible conditions for years at a time, but they don’t have a case for constructive discharge. Under California law, constructive discharge occurs when the employer created or permitted such intolerable working conditions that the employer should realize that the employee is compelled to resign. If an employee works in extreme heat in the fields, many people may consider that a terrible working environment, but it wouldn’t necessarily lead to a constructive discharge claim. However, if the employee wasn’t allowed to drink water while working and the boss screamed at him to work faster, that could be a good claim for constructive discharge.
Micha Star Liberty of Liberty Law believes that no employees should have to tolerate terrible work conditions that are created on purpose. If you were forced to quit and you believe it was constructive discharge, call Micha Star Liberty, Oakland employment attorney at 510-645-1000 or 415-896-1000. She serves clients in the Fairfield, Tracy, Hayward and San Francisco areas.