What does it take to prove Constructive Discharge

I've been subjected to constant harassment by my boss all year. He made me the project leader at the start of the year on several large projects (everyone else had hardly anything close), then pressured me into agreeing to meet aggressive deadlines on both, and then allowed coworkers to slack off, one by one missing deadlines, and the whole time he's constantly riding me asking why the work is falling behind...
He had coworkers purposely bug me, constantly interrupting me to ask me to do something. They would do this over and over even though he would tell me that I wasn't supposed to be spending my time doing what they wanted. He would also tell me that I should just tell them what to do becuase I'm the leader, saying "Oh, you're scared to give instructions to so and so..." since I was project lead.

He kept telling me he reprimanded these people, but I realize now that they never were. So I had to be rude to them to get them to stop. Finally, now it's near the end of the year and he tells me that everyone doesn't like me, don't want to work with me, and he warns me I will probably get a bad rating in my final review because I'm not easy to work with.
He has caused all these confrontations just to make it look like I am hard to work with. I have never crossed the line in any interaction, very mild on my part, but other people have called me names, tried to provoke me all the time, and are pretending to be insulted because of something contrived and really small.
He has made sure I have not been able to take training classes I need, or fulfill certain goals that everyone was given this year. I think he has convinced his boss it's my fault everything is late. A month ago in my milestone review he tried to say the schedule delays were my fault, b/c I had not predicted the time needed for the project accurately. but really it's because I had to do everyone's work, so my work is late.
He has also taken credit for my work, or given the credit to others. I've told his boss, and told HR about it, but nobody seems to care. I know if anyone would look at the weekly status sheets, they would know I was doing other peoples work the whole time, and I've kept track of the dates that stuff happened...but it doesn't look good and I'm sick of the BS... And the other day I saw a notice near the exit about how I could give 15 day written notice, and claim constructive discharge if the situation was really bad. So far I have decent ratings of my work, no issues on my record.
If I was able to prove some of this harassment was real, and I gave the written 15 day written notice, would I have a good chance of successfully claiming a constructive discharge ? I'm thinking that way at least I can get unemployment...

1 answer  |  asked Oct 18, 2005 12:24 AM [EST]  |  applies to Arizona

Answers (1)

Francis Fanning
Constructive Discharge is Hard to Prove

To prove a constructive discharge, you must show that any reasonable person in your situation would have felt compelled to quit. Because your employer has posted the statutory constructive discharge notice, you also have to give the employer written notice of the conditions that you feel are so oppressive as to constitute a constructive discharge. Because none of the conditions you are complaining about threaten your health or safety, you also have to allow the employer the opportunity to correct the problem before you simply quit.
What is more important, the fact that you succeed in proving a constructive discharge does not mean you will have proven a wrongful discharge. The courts in Arizona have not answered the question whether the constructive discharge statute was intended to create a cause of action for wrongful discharge, or whether it was merely enacted to codify the common law definition of constructive discharge. If the courts decide that constructive discharge is not wrongful in itself, you would still have to prove that your supervisor's reason for forcing you to quit was unlawful, i.e. that it was on account of your race, sex, religion, age, disability, or in retaliation for your having complained about unlawful conduct in the workplace, having refused to engage in illegal conduct or having engaged in some protected activity like filing a worker compensation claim.
Trying to use the constructive discharge statute simply to qualify for unemployment seems a bit extreme. If conditions are so bad that you feel your mental health in in jeopardy, leaving for the sake of your sanity seems more important than getting a few hundred dollars a week in unemployment benefits. If the situation is not that bad, you would probably fare better by staying in the job while you look for another job. In any event, the standard for qualifying for unemployment benefits is similar but not identical to the constructive discharge statute. If you quit for compelling personal reasons, you can still collect unemployment. To prove that your reasons are compelling, you would probably need something like a medical or psychological recommendation that supports the claim that the workplace stress is too extreme for you to remain.

posted by Francis Fanning  |  Oct 18, 2005 1:32 PM [EST]

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