Fired Article


Constructive Discharge

Constructive discharge” occurs when an employer makes working conditions so difficult, unpleasant, or outrageous that an employee is forced to quit.  Arizona law prohibits employers from constructively discharging employees.  A.R.S. § 23-1502.

In some cases, the employee must tell the employer about the difficult, unpleasant, or outrageous work conditions and give the employer a chance to correct those conditions.

Ending the Employment Relationship

In Arizona, employment is “at-will.”  A.R.S. § 23-1501. At-will employment means that the employer can fire the employee at any time or the employee can quit at any time.  There are some exceptions to this general rule.  For example, an employer cannot fire an employee if another law prevents firing an employee for a specific reason, such as firing someone because of their race or because the employee was called to jury duty or if there is a written employment contract.

While the employer can fire the employee at any time, the constructive discharge law prevents an employee from making working conditions so difficult, unpleasant or outrageous that an employee has to resign.  Forcing an employee to continually work in extreme heat or cold or continually being treated rudely and disrespectfully by others could be working conditions so difficult, unpleasant, or outrageous that an employee has to resign.

The constructive discharge law does not prevent the employer from disciplining or firing employees for unsatisfactory work or assigning hard work to employees if the hard work is what is needed to run the business.

Employee Notice to Employers – Difficult or Unpleasant Work Conditions

An employee must inform the employer in writing about difficult or unpleasant work conditions if the employee feels the work conditions are difficult or unpleasant to the point that a reasonable employee would feel compelled to resign. A.R.S. § 23-1502 (B)(1). Verbal notification to the employer is not enough: the complaint must be in writing.  The law does not give any examples of difficult or unpleasant work conditions. The employer has up to fifteen days to respond in writing to the employee. A.R.S. § 23-1502 (B)(2).

If the employee reasonably believes that she cannot continue to work while waiting for the employer’s response, the employee can take leave up to fifteen calendar days or until the time the employer responds in writing to the employee's notice, whichever occurs first.  If the employee has paid leave, the employee can choose to use this paid leave during the time off. A.R.S. § 23-1502 (C).

The employer must inform employees of this constructive discharge law by posting a notice about this law.  Employers can post this notice where notices to employees are customarily posted or in the employment handbook or policy manual that is distributed to employees.  A.R.S. § 23-1502 (E)(1).

If the employer does not post this notice, the employee is not required to inform the employer of the difficult or unpleasant work conditions prior to resigning. A.R.S. § 23-1502 (E).

No Employee Notice for Outrageous Conduct
An employee that feels the work conditions are outrageous to the point that a reasonable employee would be forced to resign does not need to provide notice to the employer.  The law gives examples of outrageous conduct: sexual assault, threats of violence directed at the employee, a continuous pattern of discriminatory harassment by the employer or by a managing agent of the employer. A.R.S. § 23-1502 (F).

What To Do
If you believe you are the victim of a constructive discharge, review your employer’s constructive discharge policy to determine who you should speak to and arrange a meeting with that person.  Prior to the meeting, put your complaint in writing and give your employer a copy of the complaint.  In your written complaint, give the employer as many specific facts as you have. Listen to the employer’s explanation.

If, after speaking with your employer, you still think you are being, or have been, constructively discharged, you should contact a private employment law attorney and discuss the facts with the attorney.



Legal Correspondent: Dave Smith     August 25, 2016

Comments:

QUESTIONS

  • If a co-worker has just come back from short-term leave; was diagnosed with Lymphoma Cancer, can the company still terminate her if she is not meeting the company's requirements or 'numbers' for the department
  • When is it NOT LEGAL to terminate an employee; i.e., what are the grounds for termination of employment that the law prohibits?
  • I left a job to work with another dentist for a better opportunity this dentist offer me what i was looking for plus training since I didnt know the program he works with.to my surprise his office manager never gave me training or allow me to use the computer all i did was sit there. after 2 weeks he waited 30min before i had to at work to call me and tell me it wasnt working. now i'm left with out a job what are my rights?? their is something I can do. I live in arizona. he even wanted me to leave my pervious job a week early to work for him and he did this. please give me a good advise
  • I got fired at a private school for sending the parents an e-mail that was riddled with grammar errors. To be honest, I did write it in a hurry and I didn't proofread it. There is nothing offensive. I did nothing offensive during my time at the school. But that e-mail did spark fury with the parents who thought I'm not good enough to teach their children despite my credentials. I feel the principal didn't support me and fired me on the spot. My friends suggested that I should seek a lawyer to sue the school, but I have my doubts. Should I seek a lawyer for this?
  • I have not yet been fired but have been told that if I refuse to wear a face mask during this covid 19 thing I will will be fired. I have already been suspended. My employer has not posted or provided employees with any type of policy stating if you do not wear a mask here are the consequences. I called our Division VP and HR. They...prior to hanging up on me stated they are not required to provide us with a new policy. I was told that word of mouth is enough. Is this correct?
  • I need to know if I could be fired over the phone?
  • After being fired from my job I began collecting unemployment. Now they are fighting it . They have not appeared for the phone hearing and now are re-appealing. How do I get help?
  • I was terminated from my job because I injured myself, is this a legal practice that employers in this state can do ?
  • I was fired from my job. Prior to the firing I had asked the Director to investigate issues of abuse by the Managers towards the Latina and African American staff. I know that my firing was due to this. Do I have any recourse?
  • Is my employer required to give me confirmation in writing of my termination at the time of firing?

STORIES

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  • I just helped my mother, age 89, deal with her Medicare HMO. . .
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