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Understanding constructive discharge

On Behalf of | Dec 20, 2021 | Employment Law |

When an employee is wrongfully terminated, it can leave him or her with more questions than answers about what to do next.

Oregon is an at-will employment state. This means that the employer or the employee can terminate the employment relationship at any time, with or without cause. However, if an employer fires the employee for an illegal reason or in breach of contract, that is wrongful termination and the employee can take steps under the law to address it.

Constructive discharge

Wrongful termination may occur when the employee is discriminated against, retaliated against, where public policy is violated or when he or she is constructively discharged, in addition to other situations.

A constructive discharge, also known as a constructive dismissal, occurs when the employer makes the working conditions so intolerable that a reasonable person could not endure it and quits. Essentially, the employment ends because of the employer’s extraordinary and egregious actions, not because the employee voluntarily leaves the organization.

For example, if the employer requires or requests the employee to participate in illegal activity or acts violently toward the employee, that may be evidence of constructive discharge.

Notice to employer

The conduct must generally happen over time. An isolated incident may not be enough to demonstrate constructive discharge. Also, the employer must have knowledge of the intolerable working conditions. Most often, this means that the employee notified management or someone else in authority and they failed to correct the situation.

If an employee believes he or she was constructively discharged, it is important to address it quickly and there are resources available to do so.

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