From:Xavier Smith, Division Manager
Date:April 19, 2012
Re:Review of Constructive-Dismissal Claim
It has come to my unfortunate attention that a former employee has made a discrimation-focused legal claim against our company. My goal is to define “constructive dismissal”; explain the legal mandates to which it may be attributed; discuss the merits—or lack—of it; and offer future mitigative actions to avoid such claims.
Before delving into a serious discussion of the former employee’s claim, it is important to understand the legal construct upon which it has been founded; this construct is referred to as “constructive dismissal.”
Constructive dismiissal refers to an employee compulsion to terminate any working relationships with an employer. The impetus for the termination is an employer’s willful intent to create a hostile or unbearable working condition. Legally speaking, constructive dismissal is, then, tantamount to involuntarily separating the employee from the company (United States Department of Labor, 2012).
There are three standards that must be considered when adjudicating whether a situation falls within constructive-dismissal grounds. They are
1. Intolerable Conditions
2. Objective Standard
3. Employer Knowledge and Intent
The adjective in the first standard is important, because it makes the distinction between undue working conditions that are unbearable for a reasonable person and a process change that may be inconvenient for the employee but is not intolerable. Trival matters such as changing a computer from a PC to a Mac, are exmempt from this standard, since these frustrations are a normative in all areas of employment.
The second standard establishes a consensus on what is considered intolerable. It is defined as a work environment in which a reasonable person would feel compelled to quit.
The third standard is also important, because it clearly indicates that the employer must know that changes that it is implementing create an intolerable environment, and it does so with the intent of compelling an employee to quit as opposed to implementing changes that are motivated by a substantiated business need (Turner v. Anheuser-Busch, Inc., 1994).
Please note that constructive dismissal does not necessarily imply discrimination (though it is almost always discrimination based), since it can apply to both those in a protected class or outside it.
The ex-employee charges that the schedule change for the production department was an unreasonable action on the company’s part and resulted in her being forced to work on a holy day of her religious persuasion. Resultantly, she charges that she felt compelled to quit, which is why she has filed a constructive-discharge claim against the company.
Constructive-Dismissal and Attendant Legal Mandates
More than just creating such a toxic environment, when the working condition creates an undue effect based on the employee’s race, ethnicity, gender, national origin, or religion. the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act applies and sets forth:
“(1) to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such indviduals’race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; or
“(2) to limit, segregate, or classify his employees or applicants for employment in any way which woulld deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin” (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 2012).
An amalgamation of undue effect and discrimination of a protected class engenders “disparate impact” (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 2012) Employment separation due...