By Jon Hyman
Jun. 13, 2016
Henry v. Abbott Laboratories (6/10/16) [pdf] is what I would call a curious case, and one that I plan to liberally use any time I’m defending a case in which claims both of discrimination/retaliation and constructive discharge are asserted.
A constructive discharge is when an employer makes ones working conditions so intolerable that a reasonable person under such circumstances would have felt compelled to resign. It is not an independently unlawful act, and must be tied to some underlying illegal conduct (i.e., unlawful discrimination, harassment, or retaliation) to support a claim. Thus, if the misconduct is alleged to have violated Title VII, and if the employee resigns in the face of such circumstances, Title VII treats that resignation as tantamount to an actual discharge.
It seems pretty cut and dry, then, if an employee resigns because she feels that she was retaliated against for engaging in some protected conduct, the resignation should rise to the level of a constructive discharge, if the underlying retaliation is also unlawful.
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