West Virginia law permits people to file sexual harassment claims against current and former employers when sexual harassment created a hostile work environment. Whether the employee chooses to remain employed (as many do) or quit, they can file a claim as long as they do so in a timely manner.
Constructive Discharge: When You Feel Compelled to Quit
If you felt forced to leave your job because of sexual harassment, you may have experienced a constructive discharge. In this situation, your employer didn’t fire you – rather, you felt you had to quit your job to get away from intolerable working conditions caused by sexual harassment or your complaints about it.
In you were sexually harassed and felt like you had no choice but to leave your job, you may have both a hostile work environment claim based on the sexual harassment and a constructive discharge claim.
What Is Constructive Discharge?
Constructive discharge occurs when an employee feels forced to quit his or her job due to an intolerable work environment created by discrimination based on race, religion, sex, or any other protected characteristic.
This can happen as the result of severe and pervasive sexual harassment that a company fails to address. This can also happen when an employee is sexually harassed, reports the conduct, and the employer retaliates by making the employee’s work environment so difficult that the employee feels like they have no real choice but to leave her job. West Virginia law protects employees when employers target them for reporting sexual harassment and try to force employees to quit in retaliation for reporting unlawful sexual harassment. Employers often do this believing they are avoiding unlawful wrongful termination lawsuits. However, if an employer does this, they are acting unlawfully because they are “constructively discharging” the employee by purposefully creating an intolerable work environment. In that case, the employee may have a claim they can pursue against the employer.
Constructive Discharge Is Not Wrongful Termination
Constructive discharge is often confused with wrongful termination because both often deal with matters involving discrimination.
There are many differences between these two distinct claims, but the most important one is whether someone leaves their job by “choice” (as is the case in a constructive discharge) or is formally terminated by their employer (as is the case in a wrongful termination).
We use the term “choice” loosely because the conditions that cause a constructive discharge claim don’t give workers an honest choice. In these situations, employees often feel they must choose to continue enduring sexual harassment to keep their job or quit to end the harassment – that is not much of a choice at all.
Talk to a Lawyer About Your Experience
If you experienced sexual harassment at work, feel like you are being retaliated against because you reported sexual harassment, or are at the point that you dread going to work because of the unlawful sexual harassment you are forced to endure, call Rod Smith Law PLLC to talk to an attorney about your legal options. All conversations are strictly confidential, and you do not have to pay us anything unless you recover. We have helped many West Virginians stuck in similar situations get justice against their employers who believe they can get away with sexual harassment. We are not afraid of the big companies!
Remember that quitting your job doesn’t mean you can’t fight back.