Voluntary Terminations: Federal
Author: Michael Barnsback
- Employment in the United States is generally "at-will," meaning that both the employer and the employee can terminate the employment relationship at any time, for any lawful reason. See Nature of Employment Relationship.
- Employees may resign from employment without providing employers with any prior notice, unless the employee is bound by an employment contract that includes a resignation notice requirement. See Notice of Resignation and Resignation Notice Policies.
- A claim for constructive discharge requires a demonstration by the employee that working conditions were objectively intolerable or that a reasonable person in the employee's position would not have been able to tolerate working conditions. See Constructive Discharge, Generally.
- Alternatively, an employee can demonstrate constructive discharge by showing that the employer acted in a way so as to demonstrate to a reasonable person that he or she had been fired. See Constructive Discharge Based on Actions of the Employer.
- Not all resignations are strictly voluntary. A forced or coerced resignation may be considered a "constructive discharge," meaning that the employee in question may be entitled to similar or identical remedies to employees who are formally terminated. See Resignations Versus Constructive Discharge.
- A continuous pattern of discriminatory or harassing treatment will often be sufficient to prove a claim for constructive discharge. See How to Define "Objectively Intolerable."
- The majority of federal courts do not require a demonstration that the employer deliberately created the objectively intolerable working conditions, with a few exceptions. See Employer's Intent as a Factor to Consider.
- Employers can defend against claims for constructive discharge in some cases by showing they had an effective grievance procedure in place, that they took corrective action in response to the employee's complaints, if any, or that the plaintiff failed to make use of the grievance procedure. See An Affirmative Defense to Constructive Discharge.
- Claims for constructive discharge are recognized under federal discrimination statutes such as Title VII, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Federal labor statutes like the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) also permit claims for constructive discharge. See Constructive Discharge Under the Law.
- Employees who resign have a limited amount of time to file a claim for constructive discharge. See Statutes of Limitations.
The following states have additional requirements for this topic under applicable state law.
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