Constructive discharge

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Updated: 4/13/2007 3:36 pm
Whenever a reasonable employee is involuntarily forced to resign from his or her job to avoid working conditions that are intolerable or illegal, it's known as constructive discharge. Working conditions that may incite an employee to be constructively discharged may be repeated harassment by employers or co-workers, intimidating or threatening conduct at the hands of a supervisor, or actions such as skipped promotions or pay cuts that are intended to destroy an employee's career or guarantee job loss. Employees who are victims of a constructive discharge generally have the right to sue their employer for wrongful termination, regardless of whether or not the employer specifically intended to force an employee's resignation. In order to win a lawsuit, however, employees must show that working conditions were so bad that any reasonable person in their position would resign. They must also prove that they tried without success to get the employer to fix the problem. Courts generally don't award constructive discharge cases in situations where employees don't first complain about offensive behavior, and instead choose to quit and sue. Employees who are successful with their lawsuits may receive punitive and compensatory damages or back pay for lost wages. Companies can protect themselves from wrongful termination lawsuits involving constructive discharges by properly disciplining employees who contribute to creating intolerable working conditions for others.

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