If your boss fires you for an illegal reason you can assume you should call a wrongful termination attorney to discuss a potential suit against the organization for wrongful termination at the very least, but what if you were forced to resign? Being “forced to quit” or “forced to resign” at first blush sounds a bit out of the ordinary. What does it actually mean to be forced out of your position, and if you actually were forced out, do you still have a claim against your ex-employer? Usually, if an employee finds themselves in this kind of situation, he or she may bring a claim for wrongful termination and or breach of employment contract which came out of an employee’s forced resignation. Below are five things you may not have known about being forced to quit.
1. Being forced out of your job is an actual thing
Being squeezed out of your employment by your employer is a thing, it’s called “constructive discharge”. The way in which constructive discharge arises is in situations where an employer actively tries to make the particular employee’s employment so unbearable that they are forced to resign or retire which may be a reason to sue for wrongful termination and or breach of their employment contract.
In order to pursue a claim against an employer for construct discharge, an employee would need to prove it is more likely than not that their employer purposely made the employee’s work conditions unbearable or the employer knew the conditions were unbearable and did nothing to cease further occurrences. Again, this is something a wrongful termination lawyer should analyze in order to decide whether there is a potential claim.
2. Were you pressured into quitting or resigning?
What factors are taken into account in deciding if an employee really was constructively discharged? Although not an exhaustive list, there are certain features an Employment Attorney will consider in deciding if an employee was constructively discharged. The features include a reduction in rank, a decrease in pay, a decrease in job responsibilities, harassment, including sexual harassment or harassment based on a protected class, and causing extreme humiliation, all of which amounts to forcing the employee to quit.
3. It’s based on an objective standard
In deciding whether an employee was constructively discharged, the behavior of the employer is observed from an objective standpoint not subjective. This means the employer’s acts are judged based on what a reasonable employee in that particular employee’s position would have found to be intolerable work conditions, not what the particular individual may find to be unbearable. The rationale is to avoid the allowance of overly sensitive employees to make claims but it also does not allow employers to escape a lawsuit even if a particular employee is more tolerant than most.
Keep in mind that in applying the objective view, even if the reasonable employee would find certain treatment to be upsetting or disappointing, those feelings are not enough to amount to an unbearable work environment.
An employment lawyer will be able to apply the reasonable person standard to your situation and tell you if a reasonable employee would likely find the circumstances unbearable.
4. Where is the line drawn?
“Intolerable” or “unbearable” working environments are usually measured by how often the acts in question occur. For example, the more frequent the conduct or harassment, the more likely it is considered insufferable. Also, employment law will likely classify a work situation as “intolerable” if it is abnormally antagonized. For example, Pam worked at a retirement home as a nurse. For several months her boss had been continuously transferring her to different positions, placing her under the supervision of other employees who were less qualified than she was and also much younger. Often her boss would violently scream and torment her in front of other employees to the point where she could not get her work done because it was so distracting. Finally, Pam was forced to resign from her position because the constant disruption of being transferred as well as harassed on a daily basis was intolerable. Here, because the acts were continuous over an extended period of time, Pam’s Labor Attorney may be able to file suit against her employer for constructive discharge.
5. “I quit” doesn’t necessarily mean no claim
It would seem rational to assume that if an employee quits their job, they can’t turn around and sue their boss but that’s not always the case. An employee quitting may be the end result of their employer’s behavior towards him or her in the workplace. If an employee decides to quit or resign due to the way in which they have been treated by their employer, under the law the resignation may be classified as a termination. For example, George, an agent at a real estate company made a complaint to his boss about illegal practices conducted by the company. After he made the complaint, George was demoted to a lower-paying position and was forced to move his desk into the break room. This put George at an extreme disadvantage on many levels and above all George felt humiliated which ultimately lead him to quit. Here, George was entitled to make a complaint about illegal practices at the workplace, therefore the demotion and moving his desk to the break room may all be forms of retaliation. George may also show he was constructively discharged because he was subjected to the demotion, lower pay, and his demotion was put on display for the whole agency to see in the break room. An employment lawyer may be able to decipher whether George has a claim again his employer.
Although it seems like an employee may not have a claim against their employer because they quit their job, depending on the circumstances he or she may be classified as “fired” regardless. If the employer subjected the employee to an unbearable work environment, the employee needs to consult with a legal professional. An employee who suspects they are heading down the path of constructive discharge should reach out to an Employment Attorney to discuss the facts of their case.