Labor and Employment

Can I Sue for Wrongful Termination If I Quit?

By Sachi Barreiro, Attorney, University of San Francisco School of Law

Most of the time, you need to be fired or laid off to have a wrongful termination claim. However, in some cases, employees who quit due to intolerable working conditions can file a “constructive discharge” lawsuit. To win this type of case, you will need to show that conditions at work were so bad that you basically had no other choice than to quit.

These types of claims often come up when an employee is subjected to workplace harassment. For example, you might have a succesful claim if you are being sexually harassed by coworkers or if your boss is retaliating against you for filing a discrimination complaint.

The workplace harassment must be relatively severe to be grounds for quitting, though. A court will consider not only whether you felt the working conditions to be intolerable, but also whether the average person would have found them to be intolerable. In other words, if you’re extra sensitive to your working conditions, a court may find that you weren’t justified in quitting.

Before you can quit, you must give your employer an opportunity to correct the problem. This means giving your employer notice of the mistreatment and waiting a reasonable time for your employer to take corrective action. If you suffer in silence and then quit, you probably won’t have a successful constructive discharge case. (For more information, see our article on constructive discharge cases.)

Go back to main page of Wrongful Termination FAQs for Employees.

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