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Wrongful Termination -- Employee Law

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Can I Sue My Employer After I Quit?

Yes. You can sue your employer even though they didn’t fire you. You can do so if your employer made your job so bad that you quit.

This article explains constructive discharge. Be aware that state laws vary. So, you should consider speaking with an experienced employment attorney in your state. An experienced attorney can help you in many ways. They can explain your legal rights and give you advice about your circumstances. They can also help you file a wrongful termination lawsuit.

What Is Constructive Discharge?

Most workers in the United States are at-will. At-will employment means you or your employer can end your job anytime for any legal reason. But what happens if your boss creates such a hostile work environment that you must quit? Did you leave your job by your choice or were you fired for an illegal reason?

Constructive discharge is also called constructive termination. It’s when your employer creates a work environment so intolerable that a reasonable employee would quit. Another way to look at it is that your employer mistreats you so much that you resign. Common causes of employees quitting include harassment, discrimination, demotions, and unfair wages.

Can You Sue for Constructive Discharge?

Yes. You can bring a constructive discharge claim against your former employer. But you only have a limited amount of time to file the claim. This time requirement for filing a claim is called a statute of limitations. The statute of limitations depends on state and federal laws.

Laws also vary on when the clock starts. Sometimes, it’s on the date of your employer’s last unlawful act. At other times, it’s the date you resigned. So, it’s essential to contact an experienced employment attorney right away.

How Do You Prove Constructive Discharge?

If your situation meets the following criteria, you may be the victim of constructive discharge:

  • A reasonable person would think the work environment is hostile;
  • The employer’s unlawful practices caused the hostile environment; and
  • The hostile work environment was the direct cause of your resignation.

If you file a wrongful termination claim, you must prove constructive discharge. To do that, you’ll have to show either of the following:

  • Your employer was directly responsible for the hostile conditions. For example, a superior sexually harassed you.
  • Your employer knew about the hostile conditions and didn’t fix them. For example, you complained that a coworker sexually harassed you and your employer didn’t do anything to stop the harassment.

What Are Common Examples of Constructive Discharge?

Following are some common examples of situations that could contribute to constructive discharge.


Discrimination happens when your employer mistreats you because of a characteristic like your:

  • Race
  • Color
  • National origin
  • Religious beliefs
  • Sex
  • Disability

For example, your boss moves you to the night shift when you get pregnant.


Harassment can create a hostile work environment. Sexual harassment is the most common form of workplace harassment. For example, you aren’t promoted after you refuse a manager’s sexual advances.


You have the legal right to take part in certain protected activities, like filing a discrimination complaint. Retaliation is when your employer does something to you for participating in a protected activity. For example, your boss cuts your hours after you file a discrimination complaint.

Breach of Contract

Your employer breaches your employment contract. For example, you have an employment contract that says that your boss can cut your hours after your third time coming in late but your boss cuts your hours the first time you come in late.

Not Giving You a Disability Accommodation

Your employer has to make certain accommodations if you’re disabled. Without them, your employer can make doing your job a frustrating experience. For example, if you use a wheelchair but there aren’t any handicapped parking spaces.

Contact an Employment Lawyer for Help With Your Case

You might be able to take legal action if you leave your job because of intolerable work conditions. But employees who sue their former employer can have a hard time winning a constructive discharge claim. So, knowing your legal rights is essential. An employment lawyer can give you legal advice about your situation. They can also help you file a wrongful termination case.

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