Constructive dismissal: a type of wrongful termination?

On Behalf of | Jul 18, 2019 | Wrongful Termination |

Not every instance of wrongful dismissal in Minneapolis takes place when an employer unlawfully retaliates against a worker. Sometimes an employer’s actions are subtler. It may start with one or two ways that make working for that employer difficult, but if an employer makes the workplace so unbearable that a worker feels they can no longer work there, under certain circumstances the worker may have been subject to constructive dismissal.

Constructive dismissal is a type of wrongful termination. If, instead of firing a worker, the worker’s employer makes the workplace so hostile and unbearable that the worker feels compelled to quit, this may constitute constructive dismissal. In cases of constructive dismissal, the worker feels forced to resign (even if it is technically voluntarily) because resigning was the only reasonable alternative given the intolerable working conditions.

In general, to prevail on a constructive dismissal claim, it must be shown that the work conditions were so extraordinary and egregious that no competent and reasonable worker would continue his or her employment with that employer. One negative act usually isn’t enough to establish the existence of an unbearable workplace, unless that act was severely egregious, such as the commission of a crime.

In addition, the worker’s resignation must be based on whether a reasonable person in similar circumstances would also resign. Also, the worker must demonstrate that their employer intentionally created or maintained the hostile work environment or had knowledge of it. If the employer didn’t know about the intolerable workplace conditions, it may not constitute constructive dismissal.

It is also important to note that most workers have an “at-will” employment relationship with their employers. This means a worker can generally be fired for any reason, or for no reason at all. There is no law requiring employers to be fair to all workers or to keep workplace stress-free. However, employers cannot engage in discrimination or commit crimes. Therefore, constructive dismissal claims usually must be based on unlawful conduct or breach of contract if the worker had a contract with the employer.

As this shows, a worker may only have a claim for constructive dismissal under very limited circumstances. Being unfairly treated isn’t always enough. Because such cases are so complex, those who want to explore bringing a claim of constructive dismissal against their employer will want to make sure they understand whether the facts of their case support such a claim before proceeding.