Many employees in the Los Angeles area quit their jobs because working conditions have become intolerable, such as repeated incidents of sexual harassment or racial discrimination, unhealthy working conditions, being requested to perform an illegal act and the like. Employees who quit their jobs for these reasons often believe that they have no recourse against the former employer simply because they voluntarily quit. Fortunately, the law is neither so blind nor so simple.
The rule of constructive discharge, also called constructive discharge or constructive termination, provides a powerful remedy for employees who resign their employment to escape adverse working conditions. The rule states that an employer may be liable for damages to an employee who quits his or her job because of working conditions that would cause any reasonable person to likewise resign. In most cases, the employee must prove that the factors that compelled the resignation were continuous and were so egregious as to overcome the ordinary motivation to remain on the job.
In California, an employee can recover damages under the doctrine of constructive discharge by proving that he or she was subjected to working conditions that violated public policy (such as the policy against sexual harassment or environmental and anti-discrimination laws), that the employer either intentionally created the conditions or knew of the conditions and permitted them to exist, that the employee suffered damages, and that the intolerable conditions were a substantial factor in causing harm to the employee. The mere fact that the employee voluntarily resigned is not a defense to a claim of constructive discharge.
Any person who believes that he or she is being forced to work under intolerable conditions may wish to consult an attorney who specializes in wrongful termination cases. A knowledgeable lawyer can evaluate the work situation, provide an opinion about whether a voluntary resignation would be judged to be a constructive discharge and estimate the likelihood of recovering damages for lost income, medical expenses, and pain and suffering.
Source: FindLaw, "Constructive Discharge and Wrongful Termination," accessed on July 11, 2016