Constructive discharge means that even though you were not fired because you quit, the circumstances that caused you to quit were so bad that no reasonable person would continue to work under those conditions. For example, if your boss grabs your buttocks, you can walk out the door and claim that it is not part of your job to be sexually accosted. No reasonable jury would tell you that you have to put up with that at work. The standard is really a difficult standard to meet in less obvious cases. However, if a coworker (rather than a boss) grabs your buttocks, you have to complain in writing and allow the employer a short amount of time to take appropriate action to prevent future harassment from your coworker. Either way, to be constructively terminated, you have to convince 9 out of 12 jurors that no reasonable person would continue to work under those conditions.
If My Employer Violated The Terms In The Employee Handbook by Firing Me Can I Hold Them Responsible?
Oftentimes, you can use an employer’s failure to follow its own policies as part of proving that the stated reason for your termination offered by the employer was false. That is called pretext. You can use their failure to follow their own progressive discipline policy as a way to show that they really didn’t intend to discipline and correct your behavior, they were just using it as an excuse to fire you. Employee handbooks are helpful for proving pretext, but they are not absolute. There are certain policies in an employee handbook that allow the employer to fire the employee if they are accused of workplace violence or other serious accusations, like theft. Some of the hardest cases to fight are where the employee has to prove their innocence when faced with these kinds of allegations. Conversely, when it is proved that the charges are false, and that the employer knew the whole time the charges were false, these circumstance lead to higher jury awards because the jury begins to dislike the employer, and will often punish them with a higher verdict.
What Types Of Damages Is A Victim Of Wrongful Termination Entitled To?
There are several types of damages that wrongfully terminated employees are entitled to receive. The most obvious is lost past and future earnings. When you lose your job, one of the main things you lose is your wages. So, as a wrongfully terminated employee, once you’ve proved your case, you are entitled to be paid what you would have been paid if you had not been wrongfully fired. If, at the time of trial, you still haven’t found suitable replacement employment, you will also be eligible for future lost wages and future lost benefits. If you found lower paying replacement employment, you’d be entitled to the difference between what you used to make and what you are now making.
In addition to lost wages and benefits, you would be entitled to emotional distress. This is usually the largest part of the damages in the case. In order to justify the emotional distress damages, you need to start seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist after you are terminated, and continue to see them to document your emotional distress.
In cases where the employer really does something egregiously wrong, you may be entitled to punitive damages. Punitive damages are not based on your actual losses, but based on an amount necessary to punish the employer, which may be quite high for larger employers. In addition to emotional distress, punitive damages, and lost past and future wages, an employee who is wrongfully terminated is often entitled to their legal fees and costs. The law protects employees against insidious discrimination, retaliation, and harassment, and provides a one-way fee shifting, where the employee can be paid back for his or her legal fees, yet the employer cannot be paid by the employee if the employer is able to defend the action.
For more information on Constructive Discharge in California, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (562) 630-1500 today.