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Can a Constructive Discharge be a Termination?

Can a Constructive Discharge be a Termination?

Man packing up office in box due to wrongful dismissal and needing Chicago Employment and Labor Attorney.

Workers have certain rights, and employers must follow the laws. For example, the Illinois Human Rights Act prohibits workplace harassment based upon protected classes such as race, religion, disability, gender, age and sexual orientation. When an employer intentionally creates a hostile work environment due to excessive harassment, an employee might make the decision to quit.

However, quitting comes with downsides. The employee cannot file a claim against their employer because they are now unemployed. Plus, those who quit their job are generally not eligible for unemployment benefits. But there is one thing you can do: file a wrongful termination claim under the legal theory of constructive discharge

Constructive discharge occurs when a worker involuntarily resigns or retires because the employer has created a hostile work environment, in which the employee is subject to unfair treatment. The employee may no longer be able to tolerate it because of harassment or other forms of pressure. This type of environment often arises when an employer makes significant changes in the terms and conditions of a worker’s employment.

Constructive discharge can be a type of wrongful termination, which means you can file a lawsuit against your employer. Read on to learn more about your legal rights in this situation. 

What is Considered Constructive Discharge?

You may be able to file a claim for constructive discharge against your employer if you can establish all three of the following:

  • Your employer intentionally engaged in workplace harassment by creating a hostile work environment.
  • You were unable to continue working at your job because the harassment was unbearable.
  • The constructive discharge was caused only by discrimination or other illegal motivations. 

What this means is that you cannot simply say that your work life was unenjoyable or the environment less than ideal. You must be able to show that there was a pattern of behavior or events and that your employer knew about them. Single acts or incidents are not usually enough to be considered constructive discharge unless they are especially repulsive or illegal, such as a crime.

Courts will apply a reasonable person standard to the facts of the case. They will look at whether a reasonable person would find the conditions to be unusually adverse. Even if the employee believes they cannot work in the employer’s environment, if a reasonable person thinks otherwise, then constructive discharge would not apply.

 Some examples of constructive discharge include:

  • Constant yelling of demeaning comments
  • Bullying and intimidation
  • Extreme changes in work shifts
  • High risk of being injured
  • Transfer to another location 

Contact an Illinois Employment Law Firm

Employees should feel comfortable at work, but sometimes workplaces are so horrible that a person quits. In some cases, this can be considered constructive dismissal, which can be considered a form of wrongful termination.

You will need a lot of evidence to prove this claim, though. The Law Office of Mitchell A. Kline can help. Let us review your case and help you understand your legal options. To schedule a free consultation with our office, give us a call or fill out the online form.


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