Employees who complain that other employees have been discriminated against can’t just walk off the job and sue, claiming their working conditions were intolerable. The workplace must be more than merely unpleasant to justify a claimed constructive discharge.
Recent case: Shem Fischer worked for Forestwood Company, of which his father was the president. The company generally didn’t hire anyone who didn’t belong to the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS).
The trouble began when Fischer’s friend, who also worked for the company, left the FLDS and was discharged from Forestwood. Fischer complained to his father, who refused to change his decision. Fischer then quit (and quit the FLDS). He sued, alleging constructive discharge based on having to work in a company that discriminated based on religion.
The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals said Fischer hadn’t been constructively discharged because his work conditions weren’t intolerable. (Fischer v. Forestwood Company, No. 06-4121, 10th Cir., 2008)
Final note: Later, Fischer applied for another Forestwood job. His father allegedly refused to consider his son unless he rejoined the church. The court did send that part of the case to trial, and a jury will decide if the refusal to hire Fischer back was religious discrimination.
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- Winning unemployment case doesn't let you off the hook for wrongful discharge
- Beware excessive monitoring of employees who raise discrimination concerns
- Before you're sued: Check for bias patterns
- Demoting employees who belong to a protected class