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What is constructive termination?

Constructive termination, which is sometimes known as constructive discharge, occurs when an employee is forced to quit because their work environment has become so intolerable that they felt they had no choice but to leave. In some cases, this may be the result of an employer attempting to intentionally force the employee out. These types of intolerable conditions may include harassment or discrimination. They could also include acts by the employer that force the employee into a job position or a cut in pay because of a reason that is unrelated to the employee’s work performance.

As you may know, employees who quit a job on their own are generally unable to collect unemployment benefits. When employees feel that they were forced to leave their jobs, however, and constructive termination is the reason, they may not only be able to receive unemployment benefits, but may still be within their rights to actually sue the company for forcing them to quit.

Unfortunately, constructive termination is often difficult to prove. An employee must be able to show that any reasonable employee would have felt a need to quit due to the circumstances. The employee must also be able to show that he or she went to the employer and asked this person in charge to fix the problem.

As an example, a female employee complains to human resources that she is being sexually harassed by some of the male employees, but nothing is done to correct the situation. In this case, the female may be able to prove that she left due to constructive termination by providing copies of the complaints that she filed with her employer.

Employees who feel they have been forced from their jobs may have legal recourse and could still be entitled to receive unemployment benefits.

Source: About.com, “What Is Constructive Discharge?” Alison Doyle, accessed Feb. 16, 2015

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