Articles Posted in Wrongful Termination

Constructive discharge is a term used to describe a situation where an employer forces an employee to quit.   Rather than firing an employee for an illegal reason, some employers attempt to skirt liability by forcing the employee to resign.

A constructive discharge occurs when an employee is coerced into resigning as a result of the employer imposing unusually intolerable working conditions on the employee with the intention of forcing the employee to quit.  In such cases, the employee’s resignation is legally deemed a firing rather than a voluntary resignation.    

Establishing a claim of constructive discharge requires the employee to prove “that the employer either intentionally created or knowingly permitted working conditions that were so intolerable or aggravated at the time of the employee’s resignation that a reasonable employer would realize that a reasonable person in the employee’s position would be compelled to resign.”  Vasquez v. Franklin Real Estate Fund, Inc. 

California employment relationships are generally at-will, meaning either party may terminate the relationship with or without cause at any time and for any reason or no reason at all. However, there are exceptions, and an employer cannot terminate an employee for reasons that violate California public policy.

What Does It Mean to Violate “Public Policy?”

A wrongful termination that violates public policy occurs when an employer terminates an employee for exercising a legal right or obligation that affects the greater public. These cases generally fall into four categories whereby an employee is terminated for: (1) refusing to violate a statute; (2) performing a statutory obligation; (3) exercising a statutory right or privilege; or (4) reporting an alleged violation of a statute of public importance.

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