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Constructive discharge and workplace discrimination

When dealing with a case of employment discrimination in New Jersey, one potential factor to keep in mind is constructive discharge. Constructive discharge generally refers to employees who have resigned from their job in circumstances in which they had no other choice but to leave their employment.

In 2004, the U.S. Supreme Court noted that constructive discharge takes place when an employee decides to resign due to working conditions that cannot be endured. It equated this situation to that of a formal dismissal . There have been a number of claims for constructive discharge recognized within an employment discrimination framework, including cases concerning discrimination based on religion, race, sex, national origin and pregnancy.

In general, people who are seeking redress for employment discrimination are expected to stay on the job unless the situation develops to such a level as to truly force their resignation. For example, a federal appeals court held that unequal pay is grounds for a claim of discrimination, but not necessarily constructive discharge.

Even a hostile work environment itself may not be sufficient to support a claim for constructive discharge. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has held that constructive discharge only applies when an employee has no reasonable alternative but to resign. However, showing constructive discharge is important in securing back pay in a workplace discrimination case if a plaintiff resigns.

Constructive discharge claims are one of the more challenging claims to prove in an employment discrimination case. An employment lawyer can provide advice and guidance to a potential plaintiff who has experienced discrimination on the job to determine whether a constructive discharge claim is relevant to the case. People who are currently experiencing discriminatory practices at their workplace due to protected reasons like race, sex, religion or disability should consult with an employment attorney to receive advice about potential next steps.

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Lawrence N. Lavigne, Esq., L.L.C.
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