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Employees sometimes quit and claim they had no choice because work conditions were so terrible. Sometimes, they sue.

In most such cases—the argument is called “constructive discharge”—courts side with employers, provided there’s no evidence the employee suffered an adverse employment action such as a transfer, demotion or pay cut. Courts don’t want to provide incentives for employees to quit. They generally expect them to develop reasonably thick skins when it comes to workplace conflicts.

Recent case: Sheila Seeney, who is black, worked for 25 years at a residential treatment facility for people with mental and physical disabilities. Then she got a new supervisor, a black man. The two did not hit it off.

First, Seeney arrived at work to find a client had soiled himself. She asked her new supervisor to help her get the patient to the shower. When he told her to first clean up the client in a basin, she refused. That earned S...(register to read more)

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