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Worker quit voluntarily? Don’t rule out discrimination suit

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Employees who quit generally can’t sue for discrimination—unless they can show that they were essentially forced out because conditions were intolerable. But don’t think simply accepting an employee’s resignation note lets the company entirely off the hook.

The fact is a court will look at all the surrounding circumstances. If it looks like the employer forced the employee out, it will allow a discrimination lawsuit.

Recent case: Jennifer Hyden took a job with Ford fresh out of college. She understood that the position required her to rotate positions every 18 to 24 months and that she likely would not be able to remain in Colorado for the long term. When the time approached to make the first assignment rotation, she requested a temporary delay because her husband was seriously ill.

According to Hyden, management told her that if she didn’t accept the rotation, it would consider that she had resigned her position. She claimed she was ordered to accept the rotation or resign, and therefore sent an e-mail stating that her only option was to resign.

She then sued, alleging sex discrimination. She claimed male employees who asked for temporary rotation delays had not been forced to resign.

Ford continued to contend she resigned voluntarily.

But the court said her alleged resignation was an open question, and a jury should decide whether she quit or was terminated. The case will go to trial. (Hyden v. Ford Motor Credit Company, No. 06-CV-01970, DC CO, 2008)

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