Employees who quit their jobs can sue for wrongful termination under the doctrine of constructive termination or discharge. A constructive discharge occurs when working conditions become so intolerable that no reasonable person would be expected to continue. When conditions become such that an employee is forced to quit, this is considered to be the same as an involuntary termination.
Constructive termination often arise where an employee suffers harassment based on illegal factors including race, sex, gender, disability or other protected characteristics. Often times employers will refuse to terminate harassers, refuse to conduct a fair, thorough and unbiased investigation into employee complaints, attack the harassment victim, or retaliate against the employee with demotions, punitive working conditions or bogus write-ups. Hostile working conditions may escalate despite employee complaints.
Involuntary termination or “forced to quit” cases present unique challenges and an employee should not make the final decision to quit without professional guidance. Employees should discuss with their psychiatrist, psychologist or other mental health professional their feelings relative to why they are no longer able to tolerate the conditions at their job. Medical records supporting a case for constructive termination will help the employee meet the increased evidentiary burden these cases can present.
An employee considering self-terminating under intolerable conditions should also seek legal advice before making any final decision.