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The Test for Constructive Discharge: When Is a Workplace So Unbearable That You Have to Quit?


Job dissatisfaction can arise for many reasons, some personal and some driven by employer conduct. If you believe you are being mistreated at work to the point where you feel you have no choice but to quit, you may be able to claim a constructive discharge. That means you may be eligible to recover money damages just as you could if you were wrongfully terminated.

In Georgia, an employee who resigns from their job can argue they were constructively discharged if their employer intentionally created an intolerable work environment, leaving the worker no realistic option other than to quit. Some examples of employer behavior that could meet this condition are:

  • Unjustifiably cutting hours and/or pay
  • Allowing harassment, discrimination or other mistreatment of the employee
  • Demotion or reassignment to menial or degrading work
  • Requesting or pressuring the employee to participate in illegal activities

Before resigning and pursuing a claim for constructive discharge, an employee must notify management of the intolerable condition. Your employer needs to be given a chance to correct the issue before you resign and pursue a claim.

If your employer knows about the unbearable problem and doesn’t correct it, then you can file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC looks for three conditions when reviewing a constructive discharge claim:

  1. Your employer knowingly forced you to quit by creating an intolerable work environment.
  2. The unbearable workplace condition is what made you quit.
  3. There were retaliatory or unlawful reasons behind the employer’s actions.

If the EEOC finds in your favor, they will issue a Right to Sue Letter. Once you receive this letter, you have 90 days to file a lawsuit. A successful constructive discharge lawsuit can allow to get relief similar to what you could obtain if you were wrongfully terminated, including:

  • Wages lost since the day your resigned
  • Unemployment benefits
  • Compensation for emotional stress due to the situation
  • Reinstatement in your job

Proving constructive discharge can be difficult, especially when it comes to establishing your employer’s intent. For that reason it is prudent to seek a lawyer’s advice before you resign. Explain your situation to the attorney and get their opinion on the strength of your potential case before you take the big step of leaving your job.

The Reddy Law Firm in Suwannee, Georgia represents workers in Gwinnett County and neighboring areas in wrongful termination matters. Please call 678-629-3246 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation with an experienced employment attorney today.

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    11175 Cicero Drive
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    Alpharetta, Georgia 30022
    Phone: 678-629-3246
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