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Lawsuit repellent: Promotion, praise, pay raise

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

Employers that praise employees for a job well done and provide pay increases along with promotions rarely lose so-called constructive discharge lawsuits. That’s because an employee who has been praised and rewarded will have a tough time claiming her working conditions were so onerous that she had to quit.

She may still think she’s stressed out and overworked, but legally speaking, those conditions aren’t intolerable.

Recent case: Rebecca resigned from her job at the Southwest Cheese Company and then filed a lawsuit. She claimed she had no choice but to quit because someone she had accused of sexual harassment several years earlier was coming back to work in her department. At the time, she had dropped the complaint before the investigation was finished.

Her employer said she had no reason to quit and that conditions were hardly oppressive or so intolerable as to force her to quit. Instead, the employer told the court that Rebecca told them during her exit interview that she was going into “a new venture.” Plus, she had been promoted three times and received multiple pay raises.

The court tossed out the case. It reasoned that Rebecca couldn’t justify quitting a job where she got regular raises and promotions without showing much more than the discomfort she apparently felt at having someone she had accused of sexual harassment in her department when she had dropped her accusations. (Martinez v. Southwest Cheese Company, No. 14-2141, 10th Cir., 2015)

Advice: Be sure to document exit interviews; as this case shows, a record can sometimes be useful in court.

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