What Is Constructive Discharge? (Definition, Legality and Examples)

Constructive Termination

What is constructive discharge?

An employee choosing to leave their employer following a negative work experience is known as a “constructive discharge,” “constructive termination,” or “constructive dismissal.” The employee decided to leave because they could no longer work in this environment, whether it was because of a single negative event or a pattern of unfavorable behaviors and/or actions.

Contrary to other employee separation processes like firing or layoff, constructive discharge is a legal term. A hostile or uncomfortable work environment is a requirement for constructive discharge, which is still a forced or involuntary resignation, making resignation absolutely necessary.

How constructive discharge works

An employee may cite “constructive discharge” and leave their employer if they feel that their working conditions are unfavorable or unfair as a result of harassment, discrimination, hostility, or other issues.

However, constructive dismissal, if proven, is regarded as a form of involuntary termination and is therefore eligible for these benefits. In a typical voluntary separation, the employee is not eligible for unemployment benefits. It is the employee’s responsibility to request a constructive discharge and to be able to show that it actually happened. The typical sequence of events is as follows:

Requirements for constructive discharge

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) offers advice on how to recognize “constructive discharge” in your circumstance. ” With this agencys guidance, constructive discharge is when:

If the dismissal results in a legal case, the employee typically has the burden of proof. The majority of the time, an employee must demonstrate that their employer was either directly responsible for the intolerable working conditions they encountered or knew about the hostile work environment and did nothing to address it.

Common reasons for constructive discharge

You may be qualified for a constructive discharge or dismissal for a number of reasons that fall within the purview of EEOC requirements, including:


An employee may feel forced to resign if they experience discrimination, which is frequently based on their race, gender, age, national origin, pregnancy status, religion, and disability. For instance, a worker who recently announced their pregnancy might not receive the promotion they were hoping for.

Job demotion

If an employee is demoted from their position for a reason unrelated to performance, they may be able to assert constructive discharge. For instance, if a manager gets along better with another employee or doesn’t agree with something an employee did on their own time or away from work, they may demote that employee.


When an employer—typically a manager or supervisor—takes action against an employee for engaging in a protected activity, such as providing feedback on a survey about the leadership team, this is known as retaliation. Retaliation can take many different forms, such as making it difficult for the employee to get promoted or treating the employee with disdain when they interact with others. For instance, an employer might abruptly stop inviting the employee to team meetings or promote another worker in place of the offender.

Management disregard

When an employee complains to management about an incident, management disregard occurs when the manager does nothing to address the problem or otherwise create a supportive environment for the employee. For instance, when a worker formally complains to their supervisor about a coworker’s inappropriate behavior, management does nothing to address the issue.

Pay decrease

For instance, a worker may disagree with the department’s objectives for the upcoming quarter and express this in a meeting. This is not appreciated by the employer, who reduces the employee’s pay as retaliation.

Lack of disability accommodations

If an employee with a disability needs certain accommodations to do their job well and comfortably but their employer refuses to provide them, they may encounter a hostile work environment and feel compelled to offer their resignation.

For instance, if there are no wheelchair accommodations available for employees who require them, the employee may request improved mobility access and be denied or penalized as a result.

Additionally, it’s crucial to keep in mind that each state has its own set of laws. It’s best to research local laws or consult a qualified professional who can advise you.

Proving constructive discharge

It can be challenging and overwhelming to try to demonstrate that your employer purposefully created a hostile work environment or helped contribute to one by failing to address a specific situation when it comes to constructive discharge.

Therefore, it is crucial that you acquire and gather evidence (such as employer email correspondence, for example) in order to present your case. You must be able to convince a judge that the conditions at work were so appalling that any rational person would have quit as well.

You may only have a limited amount of time to file a constructive discharge claim before the statute of limitations takes effect, depending on the industry and state laws. Each state’s Department of Labor can assist you in learning more about your obligations and rights with regard to constructive discharge.

FAQs about constructive discharge

You most likely have a number of inquiries about your legal options and the constructive discharge procedure. To find out if you have a case for constructive discharge and what to do next, it is best to speak with the EEOC and a lawyer. Here’s are a few of the most frequently asked questions:

What doesnt count as constructive discharge?

These situations would not generally count as a constructive discharge:

Can I resign and claim constructive discharge?

Absolutely. But if you believe your workplace is hostile, the best course of action is to educate yourself. To find out if your circumstance qualifies for constructive dismissal and how to prove it, contact the EEOC and, potentially, a lawyer.

Can I sue for constructive discharge?

You can sue for constructive discharge. Contacting the EEOC and a lawyer is the best course of action to determine the viability of your case and whether you might be eligible for compensation for your constructive discharge.


What is an example of constructive discharge?

Sometimes, constructive discharge occurs when a company forcibly fires a worker. For instance, a manager who threatens to make an employee’s life miserable at work and then actually follows through on that threat has likely constructively terminated the worker.

What are the elements of constructive discharge?

Elements of a Constructive Dismissal Claim The employee’s working conditions were so unusually unfavorable that a reasonable employee in the same position would have felt compelled to resign, and The employer either had the intention of forcing this resignation or was aware of the appalling working conditions.

What is a constructive discharge claim?

A lawsuit brought by a worker who quit their job due to intolerable working conditions is known as a constructive discharge claim. Sometimes an employer willfully create intolerable working conditions with the intention of getting the employee to quit.

What is constructive discharge EEOC?

When an employer discriminatorily creates working conditions that are so challenging, unpleasant, or intolerable that a reasonable person in the aggrieved person’s position would feel compelled to resign, that is the definition of a discriminatory constructive discharge.

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