How Can An Employee Prove They Were Constructively Discharged?

Yes. This is one of the most common misperceptions which is covered in our videos.  An employee can claim that s/he was constructively discharged. A constructive discharge occurs when the employer’s conduct effectively forces an employee to resign. Although the employee may say ‘I quit,’ the employment relationship is actually severed involuntarily by the employer’s acts, against the employee’s will; a constructive discharge is legally regarded as a firing rather than a resignation. 

A California employee must prove the following elements to show that s/he was constructively discharged:

  1. Intolerable work conditions existed at the time of the employee’s resignation;
  2. The work conditions were so unusually adverse that a reasonable employee would have felt compelled to resign;
  3. The employer intentionally created or knowingly permitted these intolerable work conditions; and
  4. A reasonable employer would have realized that a reasonable person in the employee’s position would be compelled to resign.

The bar to proving intolerable work conditions is high. California courts have found that the following situations alone do not result in intolerable work conditions:

  • A reduction in pay.
  • A demotion.
  • A transfer to a different branch.
  • Single incidents of mistreatment.
  • Reassignment to graveyard shifts.
  • A former subordinate’s promotion over the employee, requiring the employee to answer to a person they used to supervise.
  • Unfair performance evaluations.