Constructive Termination Explained

There are a mix of federal and state laws which allow members of certain groups to work and apply for jobs without fear of being discriminated against due to their age, race, nationality, religion, and other protected classes. Of course, this does not mean that discrimination in hiring practices has been eliminated, but individuals who were passed over for jobs or terminated have a right to seek legal recourse by suing discriminatory employers.
But what if, instead of getting laid off, your job became so intolerable that you – or any other reasonable person – would be compelled to resign? This is a situation known as “constructive termination,” which is a legal standard through which former employees may argue that they were essentially fired from their jobs.
Elements of a Successful Constructive Termination Case
Unfortunately, showing and proving that you were constructively terminated is not an easy bridge to cross. One instance of your supervisor making you uncomfortable – even if it’s wrong – will not, generally, convince the court that constructive dismissal occurred. A pattern of extraordinarily egregious conduct is usually required for a successful constructive termination case.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which is the federal agency charged with enforcing civil rights laws regarding workplace discrimination, essentially uses a three-part test to determine if a worker has been constructively dismissed:

  • The behavior from the employer, which was discriminatory and retaliatory in nature, led to an employee’s resignation
  • The unbearable working conditions were a direct result of the discriminatory and retaliatory practice
  • A reasonable person would have also found the working environment to be unbearable or intolerable

Another key element of a successful case is proving that the employer either directly caused the adverse working conditions or had knowledge of the conditions. Contending that your employer only “should have known” about your working conditions is not enough.
Example of Constructive Termination
Consider a hypothetical employee who has just given birth and is breastfeeding. Because her employer must abide by the Fair Labor Standards Act, she must be provided with a space that isn’t a bathroom and privacy for pumping breast milk. Her boss provides her with the space, but complains every time she takes a break. Soon, he begins openly mocking her and encourages her coworkers to begin making crude jokes. The behavior further escalates when the supervisor begins taking away responsibilities and cutting her pay, citing her “constant” breaks. The employee quits and retains a lawyer to pursue a constructive termination lawsuit, which would likely be successful under these facts.
Conclusion
Constructive termination is a difficult thing to prove in court, because it’s hard to know when the situation has gotten bad enough that leaving would be “permitted” under the law. But Attorney Carla D. Aikens is not afraid to go up against the powers-that-be in order to get you the damages you deserve. If you even suspect you were constructively terminated from your previous job, please get in touch with our firm at 844-835-2993 to discuss your situation and prescribe a path forward for you. We offer free consultations to all prospective clients.

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Carla D. Aikens, P.L.C.

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