Q. I found my working conditions to be intolerable because of the behavior of my male co-workers that I considered to be sexual harassing. I just did not have the energy to complain about the behavior and face the consequences, so I quit without telling my employer about the harassment. I am having trouble finding a new job, and now I am thinking I made a mistake. Will I be able to sue my employer for sexual harassment? Can I obtain unemployment insurance?
A. In order to bring a claim of sexual harassment against your employer because of the sexually harassing hostile work environment, you must be able to show that your employer took an adverse job action against you.
In order for your voluntary resignation to constitute an adverse job action, it must meet the definition of a “constructive discharge.” Only a resignation that is made in reasonable response to an adverse job action that officially changes your employment status or situation (e.g., a humiliating demotion, cut in pay or transfer to a position in which you faced unbearable working conditions) rises to the level of a constructive discharge.
In the absence of an adverse job action—in your case, a constructive discharge—it will be very difficult for you to prevail on a sexual harassment claim.
Furthermore, in Ohio, unemployment are not available to employees who quit their employment without just cause. Case law looking at this issue generally finds that, unless you have explained your work-related problems to your employer and given it the opportunity to address and correct them, your resignation is without just cause and you are not entitled to unemployment compensation.
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