Updated: Mar 4
A guide to help you determine if you have a wrongful termination against your employer
In California employment law, constructive termination (also called constructive discharge) occurs when an employer intentionally establishes such unhealthy working conditions for an employee that the employee has no choice but to resign. You should consult with a pre-screened employment lawyer if this is the case.
Under conditions that would give rise to a California unfair termination lawsuit, if the worker were to be fired, unfair constructive termination is considered wrongful termination.
A wrongful constructive termination case may also be based on some of the exceptions to at-will jobs under California employment law, like an ordinary wrongful termination case.
What is California's Unfair Constructive Termination / Unfair Constructive Discharge Law?
In California, the law of constructive wrongful termination (also known as constructive wrongful discharge) provides that even if you quit instead of being fired, you can sue an employer for wrongful termination.
To sue an employer for constructive wrongful termination successfully, you need to be able to demonstrate two things:
Your employer deliberately or knowingly created working conditions for you that were unbearable by acts of retribution in the workplace, so that you will have little choice but to resign; and
Your boss could not fire you outright, but you would have had a legitimate wrongful termination claim against him/her if he/she had.
It is necessary to note that California's wrongful constructive discharge law only applies when all of these are valid.
Most non-union workers in California are "at-will workers" either under the express terms of their employment contract or under the default at-will rule applicable in California. At-will workers can be fired at any time, regardless of whether the employer has a reasonable reason to do so.
An at-will worker can, at any time, even be "constructively terminated." That is, if you want as long as you are at will, your employer may subject you to unbearable working conditions.
But in this scenario, if an exception to at-will jobs applies to your case, then you might have a legitimate cause claim against your employer for constructive wrongful termination.
What is the California Legal Concept of Constructive Termination?
Under the Unreasonable Constructive Termination Act of California, a constructive termination happens when an employer.
It purposely produces or knowingly permits,
So unbearable or exacerbated working circumstances,
That a fair employer would recognize that there would be no alternative but to resign a reasonable person in the employee's role.
Unpleasant working conditions are not appropriate to constitute a constructive discharge, as you can see from the above concept of constructive termination. Instead, the circumstances must be so poor that a fair worker will feel forced to resign.
Often, suppose you can prove that the employer either deliberately developed the oppressive conditions or knew about them and allowed them to proceed. In that case, you can only have a successful, false constructive discharge case against the employer.
If the employer was unaware of the circumstances, s / he is not responsible.
(Where the employer is a corporation, this means that the requirements must have been intended or understood by officers, directors, managing agents or supervisory staff.)
If I Remain in My Job And Endure The Unbearable Working Conditions, Will It Still Be Constructive Termination?
California courts understand that many individuals need their jobs to survive and push themselves for a remarkably long time to accept "intolerable" working conditions.
Courts often understand that workers facing unjust actions from their bosses often attempt to improve their condition from within rather than resign and suing right away.
Thus, under California's wrongful constructive termination law, if you remain in your job for some time after the intolerable circumstances begin, you will not automatically disqualify yourself from a successful wrongful constructive discharge suit.
That said, once the difficult working conditions begin, the longer you stayed in your employment, the harder it would be for you and your wrongful termination counsel to demonstrate that the conditions were unbearable enough to amount to constructive termination.
What is Unfair Termination in the Labor Law of California, including Unfair Constructive Termination?
Intolerable working conditions in a California wrongful constructive termination suit are only half the equation. You also must generate proof to show that your constructive discharge was "wrongful. " to successfully sue your former employer on these grounds.
California's primary forms of unfair termination include
In breach of an implied contract, wrongful termination,
In violation of public policy, wrongful termination
Termination for the actions of whistleblowers, and
Termination under the Equal Jobs and Housing Act for exercising your rights (for example, by complaining about harassment or discrimination in the workplace).
For one of those reasons, constructive termination qualifies as a constructive wrongful termination.
But it is not called "wrongful" constructive termination to be constructive termination of an at-will worker that is NOT for a cause such as those above. In cases where your employer has the right to fire you, he or she also has the right to establish working conditions that might lead to a rational individual's resignation.
What is The Statute of Limitations in California for a Wrongful Constructive Termination Claim?
Before the "statute of limitations" for that form of the case has run out, California's unfair constructive termination cases need to be brought.
Although depending on what type of wrongful termination case is, the precise duration of the statutes of limitations on wrongful constructive discharge proceedings varies.
The clock starts ticking in a wrongful constructive termination case when the employee resigns in reaction to intolerable working conditions-NOT on the day when the unacceptable working conditions begin. You'll have 2 years to file a lawsuit, the sooner you file your claim the better changes you'll have on a favorable outcome.
Where Can I File A Wrongful Termination Case?
You can get an unbiased referral to a California employment lawyer who specializes in wrongful termination cases by submitting your case details here or by calling the 24 hour employee rights hotline at 1-661-310-7999