Do I have a Constructive Discharge Case?
Sometimes employees face working conditions that are so intolerable they feel there is no other option but to quit. If you are forced to quit because of mistreatment at work, you may have a case of constructive discharge. Whether or not you have a case of constructive discharge will affect your legal rights, since it is seen as a termination in the eyes of the law.
An Example of Constructive Discharge
Suppose an employee is facing sexual harassment from her co-worker. She lets him know that his comments are unwelcome and offensive. She reports his behavior to supervisors and files a complaint with human resources. Her employer takes no action and she still faces the sexual harassment several weeks later. Finally, after facing enough mistreatment, she resigns.
This employee likely has a strong constructive discharge case. The mistreatment she faced was substantial and illegal. She gave her employer ample time to address the issue but the sexual harassment was allowed to continue.
The Basics of Constructive Discharge
You likely have a case if:
- Your employer created an intolerable work environment so that you would quit
- Your employer allowed for working conditions so intolerable that any reasonable employee would have likely quit
- Your employer illegally mistreated you
As in the above example, mistreatment must be substantial. A few instances of name-calling at work do not constitute “mistreatment” in these types of cases. If your employer retaliates against you for, say, filing a worker’s compensation claim or treats you poorly because of your race, that could be considered substantial “mistreatment” since both retaliation and discrimination are illegal. Speak with an employment attorney if you plan to take legal action against your employer because of his or her mistreatment.
How Constructive Discharge Affects your Legal Rights
Pennsylvania is an “at-will” state. This means that, unless you have an employment contract stating otherwise, you can quit for any reason or no reason at all. Once you do, though, you will be ineligible for unemployment compensation benefits. If you are forced to quit (as in constructive discharge), however, you are eligible for benefits.
Additionally, if your case is seen as a constructive discharge and you take legal action, your employer may be required to pay:
- Compensatory Damages
- Punitive Damages
- Attorneys’ fees
If you plan to take legal action against an employer due to mistreatment and think you have a case of constructive discharge, speak with an employment attorney.
If you faced mistreatment at work and were forced to quit, talk to a KM&A attorney now to discuss your options for legal remedy. We represent clients across Pennsylvania. In western Pennsylvania, call Pittsburgh at 412-626-5626. In eastern Pennsylvania, call Philadelphia at 215-618-9185. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We believe that, in order to aggressively pursue our clients’ interests, we have to be extremely accessible. Don’t hesitate to contact us for a free and immediate consultation.