Constructive Discharge: When Employers Treat you Poorly or Differently to Make You Quit, It’s Not just Wrong – It’s ILLEGAL

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Minnesota employees work hard every day to fulfill their job duties, oftentimes for the same employer over many years. Despite employees’ loyalty and strong job performance, many employers discriminate against their workers because of age, race, religion, disability, national origin, sex, marital status, familial status, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Often, instead of discriminating against an employee by firing them, a supervisor makes working conditions intolerable or deliberately takes actions to make an employee quit. This is called Constructive Discharge – and it is illegal. Essentially, instead of terminating an employee, these employers make working conditions horrible or signal to the employee that they are no longer wanted in hopes the employee will quit on their own.

Fortunately, Minnesota Law protects employees who find themselves in such a situation. In a recent February 2023 ruling, the Minnesota Supreme Court held that workers can sue their employer for discrimination if they have been forced to resign – “constructively discharged” – due to their age, race, religion, disability, national origin, sex, marital status, familial status, sexual orientation, or gender identity. In ruling that a school district employee in St. Paul could bring an age discrimination claim against the district after her supervisor had taken actions to force her to quit, the Minnesota Supreme Court wrote: 

The requisite objectively intolerable conditions for constructive discharge based on disparate treatment can occur when an employer acts in a manner so as to have communicated to a reasonable employee that she will be terminated, and the plaintiff employee resigns. In other words, a … constructive discharge can occur where, due to the employer's illegal discrimination in the form of unfavorable treatment based on the employee's protected status, the handwriting is on the wall and the axe was about to fall.

The Minnesota Supreme Court’s ruling means that if your boss treats you poorly at work to make you quit, or if they start taking deliberate actions to force you to resign, then you have been constructively discharged. Examples of actions that supervisors take to constructively discharge employees include using repetitive or unachievable performance achievement plans (“PIPs”), exaggerating or lying about performance issues, reprimanding an employee more harshly than other employees, or making discriminatory remarks to the employee or about the employee. Id. at 12.

If you have quit or have been forced to resign because of your employer’s deliberate actions, and you feel that this is connected to your race, religion, disability, national origin, sex, marital status, familial status, age, sexual orientation, or gender identity, then your employer may have committed employment discrimination under the Minnesota Human Rights Act. When this happens, you need someone in your corner who knows the law and can advocate for you. At MSB Employment Justice, we advocate fearlessly for workers experiencing employment discrimination. Reach out to MSB if your employer has discriminated against you and taken actions to force you to resign. Be heard, you deserve better.

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