Constructive Discharge and California Law

Most people have things they dislike about their jobs. If your work conditions are so disagreeable as to be intolerable, however, you may find yourself forced to quit. Under California law, this is called a constructive discharge. Learn about the possibility of bringing a constructive discharge claim in Los Angeles as a wrongful termination cause of action with help from a lawyer. A successful claim could reimburse you for damages such as lost wages.

What is Constructive Discharge?

Constructive discharge is a term in employment law that means unbearable work conditions forced an employee to quit a job. Under California’s labor laws, the definition of construction discharge (also called constructive termination) is an employee quitting or leaving a job after the job has become unbearable for the worker. Constructive discharge is closer to a firing than it is to resignation due to the employee’s lack of other options. A situation may constitute constructive discharge if the employer or its employees created an intolerable work environment that forced the employee to give notice.

How Do You Prove Constructive Discharge?

Under California Civil Jury Instructions No. 2510, to rule in a worker’s favor on a constructive discharge claim, the worker must have enough evidence to prove that the defendant (through the defendant’s employees or directors) knowingly or intentionally created or maintained working conditions that were intolerable enough that a reasonable person would have no choice but to resign, and that the worker did resign as a result of these intolerable working conditions.

Establishing what a reasonable employee would or would not do in similar circumstances often requires testimony from a subject-matter expert. Your attorney may hire an expert to testify to the fact that anyone in the same or similar circumstances would have had no choice but to resign, and that the claimant therefore has a valid claim to damages. If your lawyer can establish these main elements of proof, you will most likely qualify for related compensation for wrongful termination.

How are Intolerable Work Conditions Defined?

Intolerable work conditions by law can refer to any adverse environment or circumstances that are either unusually severe or persistent enough to create a continuous pattern. In general, just one isolated act of misconduct will not be enough to prove intolerable work conditions. To have a valid constructive discharge claim in California, you or your lawyer will need to prove that the condition in question was aggravated or persistent enough to create a hostile or intolerable work environment. Many different problems in the workplace could constitute intolerable work conditions under California law.

  • Sexual harassment, assault or discrimination.
  • Verbal, mental or emotional abuse of a worker.
  • Bullying from managers or coworkers.
  • Employee mistreatment by a manager.
  • Intentionally excluding a worker from group meetings.
  • Intimidation, threats or retaliation.
  • Cutting an employee’s hours to an unreasonable level.
  • Unjustifiably reducing pay.

You may be able to seek damages for wrongful termination (even if you technically quit your job) if your lawyer can prove that you had no alternative to quitting due to the adverse conditions you were facing at work. Constructive discharge may become part of a separate harassment or another type of employment claim. For example, many constructive discharge claims in California involve alleged violations of the state’s discrimination, harassment, and retaliation laws.

Understanding Your Legal Rights as an Employee

An employment lawyer in Los Angeles can help you fully understand your rights after quitting an intolerable job. Being forced to quit your job because of an unbearable or hostile work environment does not strip you of your legal rights as an employee. In California, constructive discharge is looked at as a wrongful termination rather than resignation. Discuss the potential for a lawsuit in more detail with a Los Angeles wrongful termination attorney today. You may have grounds for a claim against your ex-employer.