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Practice Areas • Practices • Constructive discharge

A "constructive discharge" is an involuntary termination of employment in the context of discrimination or retaliation over legally protected conduct.

To qualify as a "constructive discharge," the law requires the employer’s conduct to be so severe or persuasive that it alters the conditions of the victim’s employment and creates an abusive working environment. Daniels v. Pike Cty. Commrs., 706 Fed.Appx. 281, 287 (6th Cir. 2017).

In at-will-employment states like Ohio, employers are legally permitted be rude, irrational, or just plain unfair.

Thus, it is challenging to prove that an employer’s conduct satisfies the "severe or pervasive" standard. Victims who are subjected to discrimination or harassment based on their race, color, national origin, sex or gender, disability, or age, are also bound by the "severe or pervasive" standard. In addition to showing that you faced discriminated based on your status in a protected class, you must show that the discrimination was so severe that it created an abusive working environment.

Courts apply a supposedly "objective" standard to determine if an employee has been constructively discharged over illegal discrimination or other legally protected conduct. Thus, a plaintiff must prove that a reasonable person in the plaintiff’s position would have felt compelled to resign. But you might be surprised at how skeptical courts can be, and how many cases are found not to be cases of constructive discharge.

Demonstrating that your work conditions are so intolerable that you are compelled to resign is not an easy task. Generally, courts have held that criticism in performance reviews alone are insufficient to constitute an objectively abusive environment. Agnew v. BASF Corp., 286 F.3d 307, 310 (6th Cir. 2002).

When determining whether an employee was constructively discharged, courts carefully examine the facts of each case. Some factors include the following:

  • the frequency and severity of the discriminatory conduct;
  • whether the conduct was physically threatening or humiliating or a mere offensive utterance; and
  • whether the conduct unreasonably interfered with the employee’s work performance.

“An employee who quits a job in apprehension that conditions may deteriorate later is not constructively discharged.” Id. Thus, if you have not been subjected to severe or pervasive conduct, or if you prematurely resign from your job in anticipation that you will later be subjected to severe or pervasive conduct, the law will not protect you.

You are not alone. Call The Chandra Law Firm LLC today.

We encourage you to seek guidance from our experienced employment lawyers if you are unsure whether the discriminatory or harassing conduct you are experiencing is sufficient to meet the severe or pervasive standard.

Our Cleveland-based boutique litigation firm provides large-firm skills, experience, and resources with small-firm personal attention to your case's unique needs and goals. It is why clients throughout Ohio and across the United States have turned to our attorneys to hold businesses and employers accountable for constructive-discharge cases.

Our lawyers can send a strong message that you intend to seek the justice you deserve for the discrimination you face.

You can reach our firm, which serves clients throughout Ohio and the nation, by calling 216-578-1700 or by filling out our online contact form.

One of our intake specialists will take detailed information for attorney review. They are highly trained at obtaining the information needed to evaluate your case.

If you are preparing to complain about discrimination or constructive discharge, we can help you do it in a way that helps you fight back—with evidence—if you face retaliation for doing so.

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