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The Turley & Mara Law Firm, APLC

What is constructive discharge?

You may know that employees who quit or resign from their jobs are not eligible to collect unemployment benefits. But what about employees who were forced to quit due to intolerable working conditions? Will these employees be forced to continue working in a hostile workplace because they are unable to provide for their families?

California labor laws recognize that it would be unfair to punish workers whose resignations are in name only. 

The laws include a provision of “constructive discharge” (also called constructive termination), allowing that any employee resignation that is brought on by an intolerable work environment is, in reality, a termination.

How to Prove a Constructive Discharge Case

A constructive discharge classification is not only vital for securing unemployment benefits, it is also necessary for employees to retain the right to file a wrongful termination lawsuit. The California Supreme Court has ruled that constructive discharge has occurred if an employer’s conduct would force any reasonable person to resign, making the resignation coerced.

There is no single measure of constructive discharge, but proving your case typically includes:

Employer Knowledge:

You must be able to show that your employer either created intolerable work conditions or knowingly permitted them to continue. The employer must also be aware of the impact that the adverse working conditions could have on an employee.

Nature of The Conditions:

The conditions under which you resigned must have existed beyond a single instance, and must have been sufficient to impede the motivation of a competent and reasonable employee to remain at work and earn a living. Examples may include yelling, berating, intimidating, or bullying an employee.

Conditions at The Time of Resignation:

 All constructive discharge cases require that the intolerable work conditions must have been present at the time of the employee’s resignation.


Constructive discharge may be included in a discrimination lawsuit, and may allow for an employee to recover additional damages for suffering through hostile workplace conditions. If you have already quit your job under extreme duress, you should speak to an employment lawyer as soon as possible to retain your right to benefits and a wrongful termination case. Please use our website to learn more about California employment law violations.

William Turley
“When I seek out professional advice, I don’t want B.S., I want it straight up. I figure you do also.”

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