Understanding Employment Discrimination and "Constructive Discharge"

There are many scenarios in which a person faces such adverse discrimination at work that he or she has no choice but to quit. In such cases, the employee may have a claim for “constructive discharge” under federal and state employment discrimination laws. Keep in mind, constructive discharge requires more than proof of simple harassment. The employee must be faced with a working environment that is so hostile, any reasonable person would find the situation “intolerable” and resign.

Manhattan Judge Rejects Age Discrimination Lawsuit

A recent decision by a federal judge in Manhattan helps illustrate the standard an employee must meet to bring a constructive discharge claim. In this case, the plaintiff worked as a registered dietitian for the defendant, a dialysis clinic. About six years into her employment, the plaintiff took medical leave to attend chemotherapy sessions. While still in the hospital, the plaintiff alleged a co-worker visited her and “harassed” her to “give up her job immediately.” Two months later, when the plaintiff informed her supervisor she was ready to return to work, the supervisor allegedly said she had been “replaced” by another employee. However, the employee ultimately returned to her job. Around that time, the plaintiff said one of the defendant's co-owners stated at a meeting that, “As our employees are getting older and sicker, it is something that Atlantic has to think about, as we are self-insured for health insurance,” which the plaintiff interpreted as an indirect criticism of her.

During the next year, the plaintiff said there was a “change in the way she was treated” by management. She eventually filed a complaint with human resources, alleging she was the subject of “harassment and a hostile work environment.” Shortly thereafter, the plaintiff said human resources threatened to fire her, ostensibly for failing to follow her work schedule. The plaintiff then resigned, citing “intolerable” working conditions, and later filed a lawsuit against the defendant, alleging constructive discharge and age discrimination under federal, state, and New York City law.

On September 11, 2018, U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley, III, dismissed the plaintiff's lawsuit. The judge said the plaintiff failed to present any evidence that her decision to resign was tied to any “adverse” act of age discrimination. Indeed, the only specifics the plaintiff offered were the three incidents described above–the co-worker's statement to the plaintiff at the hospital, the supervisor's comments before the plaintiff returned to work, and the co-owner's remarks regarding the company's healthcare costs. “These incidents do not constitute intolerable working conditions,” Judge Pauley said. Aside from the co-owner's statements, none of the incidents supported an “inference” of age discrimination, which is legally defined as taking adverse employment action against an employee, who is 40 years of age or older, on the basis of said age.

Speak with a New York City Age Discrimination Lawyer Today

If you do suspect you are the victim of discrimination at work, you should carefully document any incidents that might support your case. Do not expect a judge to assume discrimination happened based on a handful of vague statements. And if you need advice or assistance from a qualified New York employment attorney, contact the Law Offices of Nisar Law Group, P.C., today.