GrahamHollis APC

When is resignation actually wrongful termination?

Everyone has a bad day at work once in a while. You may even feel like you have more bad days than good days at your place of employment. Maybe it's just a phase that will pass, or it could be something much more serious. If your bad days at work are unbearable, you may find that, each day, it gets harder to motivate yourself to get out of bed and go to your job.

If the problem stems from a clash in personalities or your personal struggle with understanding your employer's expectations, you may have to simply look for ways to cope. However, if your employer seems to be intentionally making your job impossible to endure, you probably feel that quitting is your only choice. Before you take this step, it's important to understand some things about wrongful termination -- or, in this case, constructive discharge.

Did your boss essentially fire you?

In most cases, if you quit your job, you lose the right to receive unemployment benefits, which could otherwise be critical to your financial well-being while you search for new work. You also may become ineligible for other rights and benefits reserved for those who lose their jobs involuntarily, such as filing a wrongful termination lawsuit against your employer. However, California law says that it is possible for your employer to make your work situation so intolerable that you have no choice but to resign. This is known as constructive discharge or constructive dismissal.

Proving your case

To prove to a court that your employer constructively discharged you, you will have to present evidence that your working conditions were so intolerable that a reasonable person would have quit, and that your employer created or allowed such conditions, knowing you would likely quit as a result. Intolerable conditions may include any of the following actions:

  • Harassing you
  • Humiliating you in front of your coworkers by constantly yelling and disparaging you
  • Discriminating against you for reasons protected by law
  • Unreasonably increasing your workload
  • Retaliating after you stood up for your rights

Other examples may include cutting your pay, giving you the most unpleasant assignments or moving you to an undesirable shift, but these actions alone may not be enough for you to claim constructive discharge or wrongful termination. In fact, until you are certain that your situation qualifies, it would be wise for you to seek legal advice before making any decisions about leaving your job.

On the other hand, if you have already resigned, your rights may be in jeopardy. You would do well to reach out to an attorney who can evaluate your case and help you make the next appropriate move.

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