Frequently, the conditions under which the employee-employer relationship came to an end matter. Whether an employee quit his job voluntarily, was let go but through no fault of the employee, or was fired can mean the difference between a continued obligation on the part of the employer and no obligation. Although it may seem clear that when an employee says “I quit”, or words to that effect, the employer’s obligations to the employee terminate at that point in time; however, that may not be the case if the employee’s resignation was actually a constructive discharge.
The issue of whether or not an employee’s resignation amounts to a constructive discharge is intricately tied to the legal concept of a “hostile work environment.” Although the law does not protect an employee from a difficult, grumpy, negative, or even angry boss, it does offer protection from a “hostile” work environment. All too often, when an employee is subjected to a hostile work environment the employee eventually quits. Resigning, or quitting, a job because you could not stand to work in a hostile work environment may be considered a constructive discharge.
Individual states have developed their own definition of a constructive discharge. In the State of Florida, the courts have held that “To prove constructive discharge, the employees must demonstrate that their working conditions were so intolerable that a reasonable person in their position would be compelled to resign.” This definition is not far from the federal standard used to determine whether harassment exists. Under federal law, harassment in the workplace becomes unlawful where
The conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.
Sometimes, an employee “voluntarily” quits or resigns because he/she can no longer handle working in a workplace where discrimination is pervasive and is wither perpetuated, or allowed to occur, by the employer. When this is the case, the employee did not really “voluntarily” quit. Instead, he/she was effectively forced to resign, or constructively discharged. Why does the distinction matter? It matters because if you were fired without good cause you may have the basis for a discrimination lawsuit against your employer that could lead to compensation for damages whereas if you truly quit your job voluntarily you are not entitled to anything. A constructive discharge may be equivalent to being fired without good cause, highlighting the importance of the distinction.
If you find yourself working in a hostile work environment, consult with an experienced Florida employment law attorney before you simply quit and walk out the door to ensure that your rights are protected. Contact the experienced Florida employment law attorneys at Celler Legal, P.A. by calling 954-716-8601 to schedule your appointment.