When Does A Resignation Become A Discharge

Many times, work can seem unbearable.

But the law does recognize certain limited circumstances where an employer’s conduct becomes so unreasonable that it provides a basis for a claim of a “forced resignation” called a “constructive discharge.” A case decided in the New Haven Superior Court sheds some light on this legal concept. Moreno v. ABM Securities, Inc., Superior Court, Judicial District of New Haven at New Haven, CV126029357, 2013 Conn. Super. LEXIS 1386, 2013 WL 3616002 (June 18, 2013 Nazarro, J.).

The plaintiff, Juleen Moreno was employed as a security guard with the defendant, ABM Security Services at the Bridgeport railroad station. She alleged that a co-employee, Jones, “intentionally and maliciously assaulted [her] with a motor vehicle and attempted to kill her.” Moreno suffered injuries from the assault and received a protective order from the court protecting her from Jones. Jones was arrested and charged with assault, breach of peace, reckless endangerment and reckless driving.

Moreno requested that her employer be removed from her employment or be reassigned to avoid further contact between them. ABM refused Moreno’s request and ordered her to work directly with Jones on a daily basis. Moreno alleged she was “forced by [ABM] to resign from her employment against her will.”

In its decision denying summary judgment for the employer, the court reviewed the elements of a constructive discharge, i.e., those elements that must be satisfied for the law to recognize that a voluntary resignation becomes a cause of action for constructive discharge.

“Generally, wrongful termination claims involve the direct discharge of an employee. A claim of constructive discharge, however, alleges that an employer deliberately made an employee’s working conditions so intolerable that a reasonable person in the employee’s position would have felt compelled to resign.” Moreno at 6, citing, Sophia v. Danbury, 116 Conn. App. 68, 75, n. 10, 974 A.2d 804 (2009). “Through the use of constructive discharge, the law recognizes that an employee’s voluntary resignation may be, in reality, a dismissal by the employer.” Id.

In arriving at its decision, the court did not place much weight on the company’s claim that the protective order did not preclude Moreno from working with Jones. The court thought it more important that continuing to place Moreno in proximity with the alleged perpetrator of such violence created an intolerable working environment for Moreno.

Also, a constructive discharge claim requires consideration of the employer’s intent. Because summary judgment motions are inappropriate where “the inferences which the parties seek to have drawn deal with motive, intent and subjective feelings and reactions,” Suarez v. Dickmont Plastics Corp., 229 Conn. 99, 111, 639 A.2d 507 (1994), the court denied the defendant’s summary judgment motion, allowing the case to proceed to trial.

What to take away from this case: before you quit your job because of an “unreasonable” employer, speak with a knowledgeable employment attorney.

I am...

Select the appropriate icon above for more information.

The Top 5 Things You Should Know
As An Employee
Enter your Name and Email to receive
"The Top 5 Things You Should Know As An Employee"
The Top 5 Things You Should Know
As An Employer
Enter your Name and Email to receive
"The Top 5 Things You Should Know As An Employer"
The Top 5 Things You Should Know
As A Union
Enter your Name and Email to receive
"The Top 5 things You Should Know As A Union"