Many employees in North Carolina are at-will employees, which means that employers can fire them for many different reasons with little or no warning just as the employee can quit for any reason at any time. However, employers are not allowed to discriminate against employees. Employers are prohibited from firing employees if they are doing so because of the employees’ race, gender, religion, age, disability and other protected classes.
Employers know that they cannot do this, so even if they may want to, they will not fire the employee. However, they may make the working conditions for certain employees unbearable for discriminatory reasons. They may make certain employees work long, undesirable hours; may overly critique all their work; enforce rules for certain employees that they do not enforce on other employees; make harassing comments and take other actions to make the work life miserable for the employee.
When a constructive discharge occurs
The purpose of doing this may be to force the employee to quit instead of firing the employee and potentially facing a wrongful termination lawsuit. However, in certain situations even if the employer is successful in getting the employee to quit, they may still be subject to a wrongful termination lawsuit.
If the work environment created by the employer was so terrible that a reasonable employee would find it unbearable, it could be considered a constructive discharge. This means for legal purposes it would be treated like a firing instead of the employee quitting.
There are many reasons that employees quit their jobs, but it should never be because their employer created an unbearable work environment. If this is the reason for the employee quitting and the employer created the hostile work environment for discriminatory purposes, it may be considered a wrongful termination. The employee may be entitled to compensation for the damages they suffer as a result of having to quit. These can be complicated cases and consulting with an experienced attorney could be beneficial.