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Scott Wagner & Associates, P.A. Florida Labor & Employment Lawyer
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Florida Employment Law: What is a Constructive Discharge?

Layoff

An employee may leave a job for a wide variety of different reasons. In some cases, the position may simply not be the right fit. In other cases, there may be a better opportunity available. Of course, not all workers resign of their own volition. Unfortunately, some employees are all but forced to quit because the conditions in the workplace are so bad that they can no longer be tolerated.

This raises an important question: Can you still file a wrongful termination lawsuit if you resign from your job? The answer is ‘yes’—though there are certain requirements that must be met. This type of legal action is known as a constructive discharge or a constructive dismissal. Here, you will find an overview of the most important things to know about constructive discharge claims in Florida.

Constructive Discharge: Understanding the Basics  

The remedy of constructive discharge recognizes that a reasonable employee may be subject to hostile (and illegal) mistreatment that is so severe that they have no choice but to resign. In other words, an employee may have a claim for constructive discharge if the workplace became so intolerable due to discrimination, even if they are not fired. They may be entitled to damages from the forced separation.  cause of action that they would have had if they had been fired or laid off from their position.

As explained by the Florida Supreme Court in the case of Henson v. City of Dundee, constructive discharge occurs when “an employee involuntarily resigns in order to escape intolerable and illegal employment requirements.” The claim was filed by an employee who left her position at a local police department after she was repeatedly subject to sexual harassment. She presented persuasive evidence to the court that sexual harassment occurred was persistent and that it had a significant adverse impact on her mental well-being.  

What Constitutes Intolerable Working Conditions in Florida? 

Florida is an at-will employment state. To bring any type of wrongful termination claim—including a constructive discharge claim—an employee must prove that they were forced to endure unlawful treatment in the workplace. Proving that conditions were simply “unpleasant” is not sufficient to bring a successful employment lawsuit on these grounds. The workplace must be intolerable based on the fact that the employee was subject to unlawful treatment. Some notable examples of unlawful conduct include:

  • Racial discrimination;
  • National origin discrimination;
  • Age discrimination;
  • Disability discrimination;
  • Sex/gender discrimination;
  • Sexual harassment; and
  • Retaliatory treatment.

To summarize, you may be able to bring a constructive discharge claim in Florida if you can prove the following three things: 1) Your employer or your co-workers created a hostile work environment, 2) The hostile work environment was intolerable and it caused you to resign from your position, 3) The hostile treatment was motivated by a discriminatory, retaliatory, or otherwise illegal reason.

Get More Information From a Florida Wrongful Termination Attorney 

Constructive dismissal claims are complex. Employees should not assume that they are prevented from bringing a wrongful termination case simply because they technically “resigned” from their position at the company. If you have any specific questions about constructive discharge claims, an experienced Florida wrongful termination lawyer will help you understand your rights and options.

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* Cathleen Scott is licensed to practice in Florida only.

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