If you are an employee in California, you are employed in an at-will state. This means that you can be terminated or demoted by an employer at any time, for any reason and without warning. As a California-based worker, you can also quit your job without reason or warning.
But sometimes when you resign, you may have done so due to working conditions that have become so intolerable and hostile that you simply have to quit your job to get away. And if you can prove that your employer actually coerced you to quit, you may be able to claim constructive discharge and sue for wrongful termination.
Understanding Constructive Discharge Laws in California
When employees are terminated from their jobs in California, they have certain rights under law that they wouldn't have if they decide to resign; such as the right to file wrongful termination claims and eligibility for unemployment benefits. Additionally, if an employment contract exists between an employee and employer, the doctrine of constructive discharge can often prohibit the employer from forcing workers out of their jobs without good cause.
What is constructive discharge?
According to the California Supreme Court, constructive discharge (also known as constructive dismissal or constructive termination) occurs when the employer's conduct effectively forces an employee to resign. Even though an employee may actually quit the job and say, "I quit," the relationship between the employer and the employee is severed involuntarily by the employer's negative behaviors or the intolerable working conditions. This means that the resignation was against the employee's will and therefore more like a firing-in other words, a constructive discharge.
How do I recognize intolerable working conditions?
If you want to prove to the court that you were facing intolerable working conditions that coerced you to quit your job, be informed as to what California law considers to be intolerable. If you were subjected to constant intimidation, yelling or disparaging behavior by your employer, you will likely be able to file a claim.
How do I prove constructive discharge in California?
Constructive discharge can be quite difficult to prove. Under California labor law, for an employee to prove constructive discharge, he or she must be able to prove the following:
- Workplace conditions were unusually intolerable which would make any reasonable employee want to resign from his or her job.
- The employer had knowledge of the intolerable working conditions and knowingly permitted them to continue, or the employer's intentions were to force the employee to quit his or her job.
You must also show that the above behaviors occurred fairly closely to the time that you decided to quit your job. Your employment attorney will have to help prove your case, to be sure you have a valid claim. Sometimes, employees mistake typical day-to-day job stress as a reason to quit and file a wrongful termination claim - which definitely won't prove anything to the court. If you have questions, consult an experienced California employment attorney.
Constructive Dismissal Under California Law: Additional Information
- Constructive Discharge & California Labor Law via eHow.com
- Constructive Discharge: Were You Forced to Resign? via Nolo.com
- What is Constructive Discharge? via The Balance
- California At-Will Employment and Wrongful Termination
If you need legal assistance in suing your employer for constructive discharge, contact our passionate California employment attorneys today at Hennig Ruiz today. Get a free consultation.