The role of constructive discharge in employment law cases

A Tennessee employee who files a workplace discrimination claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 generally has to stay on the job to mitigate the damages. However, this may not be the case if working conditions are so unbearable that a reasonable person would have no choice but to quit. Those who resign because of unbearable conditions are said to have gone through a constructive discharge.

This may also be referred to as constructive termination or constructive dismissal. In a Supreme Court ruling, constructive discharge is equated with a formal decision for remedial purposes if working conditions are unbearable. There is precedent for courts recognizing constructive discharge claims in employment discrimination cases related to charges such as pregnancy or national origin. However, some appeals courts have said that an aggravated situation must occur to justify constructive discharge of a Title VII claimant.

This may require a plaintiff to show that the discrimination was intentional and that an employer blatantly made working conditions unbearable. In other words, the harassment must go above and beyond creating a hostile working environment. Therefore, even if a person is able to show that he or she was a victim of a hostile working environment, it may not justify a constructive discharge.

Workers who feel as if they have been discriminated against at work may wish to pursue legal action against their employers. Those who resign or are illegally terminated may be entitled to compensation for back pay or other damages. It may be in their best interest to talk with an employment law attorney to learn more about their options. Legal counsel may point to witness statements, letters from management or other evidence to establish intentional discrimination took place.

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