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Constructive dismissal in workplace discrimination cases

Workers in New York and around the country who have been discriminated against due to their race, religion, gender, age or national origin may pursue remedies under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. These claims are often made after workers have been fired unfairly, but Title VII cases may also be filed when working conditions are so unbearable that a reasonable person would feel compelled to quit. This was how the Supreme Court defined constructive dismissal in a 2004 lawsuit involving the Pennsylvania State Police, but proving such claims can be challenging for workers.

Title VII plaintiffs are expected to do all that they can to mitigate their damages, and this generally means that they should stay on the job for as long as possible. Discrimination that would be sufficient to support a Title VII claim may not be enough to establish constructive dismissal, and workers who resign because of unfair treatment will usually be asked to provide evidence of additional aggravating factors.

Workplace discrimination cases usually feature claims for back pay, but employees who walk out of their jobs are unable to seek this type of damages unless they are able to establish that their working conditions were unbearable. There has been some legal confusion over the deadline for filing constructive dismissal claims, but these questions were cleared up in 2016 when the Supreme Court ruled that the limitations period for these cases begins when workers tender their resignation and not before.

Hostile work environments can cast a long shadow, and experienced employment law attorneys may understand why workers sometimes feel that things have become do bad that resignation is their only option. However, attorneys may encourage workers to think before they act and gather as much evidence of discrimination as they can before leaving their posts.

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