Wisconsin Employment Law Basics – Constructive Discharge

Douglas J. Carroll, Jr. Employee Rights, New Client Tips, Wisconsin Employment Law Basics

Carroll Law Firm, SC is a Milwaukee area Employment Law Firm dedicated to fighting for the rights of employees throughout the State of Wisconsin.  If you believe that your employer is engaging in employment discrimination, retaliation or creating or permitting a hostile working environment, it is always in your best interests to seek the advice of an employment attorney to learn about the law and your workplace rights before you decide to quit.

In many cases, choosing to quit a job rather than remain employed and fight for your rights can create an additional hurdle to victory on employment discrimination claims such as sexual harassment, age discrimination and disability discrimination.  Many of these claims require that the employee suffer an “adverse employment action.” Being fired is an adverse employment action.  Voluntarily quitting your job is not an adverse employment action.  In cases of “ordinary” discrimination, an employee is expected to remain on the job while seeking redress.

However, the law recognizes that there may be times when a resignation is not purely voluntary.  In those situations, an employee may prove a “Constructive Discharge.”  In short, a Constructive Discharge is a situation where an employee’s resignation is legally treated the same as a termination – meaning that the resignation becomes an adverse employment action.


In order to prove a Constructive Discharge, an employee must prove that, because of the discrimination or retaliation, his or her working conditions became so intolerable that a reasonable person in the employee’s shoes would have felt compelled to resign.  This is a difficult standard of proof. As noted above, the employer’s actions must go above and beyond “ordinary” discrimination or retaliation to warrant a finding of Constructive Discharge.

Having to prove a Constructive Discharge in addition to all of the elements of a claim for employment discrimination, sexual harassment or retaliation adds complexity and risk to your case.  For this reason, if you feel that you are the victim of workplace discrimination, retaliation or a hostile working environment and your employer is trying to force you to quit, it is in your best interests to contact a Wisconsin employment attorney for advice.