Oregon Courts on Constructive Discharge Claims
Everyone has bad days at work. Most people have coworkers who may be annoying, undermining, and even occasionally name-call in the workplace. Numerous employees believe their bosses are ‘mean’ or on power trips. Almost everyone has days during which the annoyances at work reach a point where they want to quit. An employee has the right to quit, though if you quit your job due to mere annoyance, you will likely not be eligible for unemployment benefits and will likely not have a valid claim in court to recover lost wages. If you were constructively discharged, however, you may be eligible for both unemployment benefits and recovery of damages in court. For this reason, it is important for you to know how constructive discharge works and the requirements for constructive discharge in Oregon before you decide to quit your job.
Constructive discharge, also referred to as constructive termination, occurs when an employee resigns due to abusive or illegal behavior on the part of an employer that is so intolerable the employee believed he or she had no other choice but to leave. In constructive discharge cases, the employer’s behavior is specifically intended to lead an employee to resignation. Though court decisions depend on the specific circumstances of each individual case, an constructively discharged employee must generally show that:
He was intentionally mistreated by actions or policies of the employer;
He reported the behavior to a superior or human resources department, but the mistreatment did not stop;
The mistreatment and working environment reached a level so intolerable that any reasonable employee in his situation would choose to quit;
The mistreatment was the clear reason for your resignation and not simply a contributing factor (this usually requires that an employee quit within a short period of time of the mistreatment).
Oregon Courts on Constructive Discharge
In a recent case, Garmon v. Plaid Pantries, the United States District Court for the District of Oregon shot down a claim that the plaintiff, Garmon, was constructively discharged. Garmon claimed that he received “attitude” from coworkers who talked to him in an “undermining demeanor” after he reported a suspected unlawful employment practice. The court found that mere “attitude” did not meet the required standard of an intentionally created unacceptable or intolerable working environment. Furthermore, Garmon could not show that his co-workers actually knew of his employment complaint nor that his complaint was the reason for the “attitude” he received. The Oregon court stated that constructive discharge requires aggravating factors, such as a continuous pattern of intentional mistreatment or actions so intolerable that were meant to cause the plaintiff to resign. Since Garmon’s case did not show such intolerable or continuous behavior, he was not eligible for relief based on a constructive discharge claim.
If you are considering quitting your job due what you believe to be hostile or abusive working conditions, it is important to consult with an employment attorney first to make sure your case meets the intolerable standard for Oregon constructive discharge cases. Contact our office today to schedule a consultation.