Michigan is an employment-at-will state, which means employers can dismiss employees for no reason, good reason, or even a bad reason.
This does not mean, however, that an employer can fire an employee for an illegal reason. When that happens, it’s called wrongful termination and the wronged employee might have a legal claim.
There’s another wrongful-termination scenario in which the employee might have legal recourse, even if he or she was not fired. We will examine it in this post.
It’s called “constructive discharge”
Most states, including Michigan, recognize the legal concept of constructive discharge, in which an employee quits because the working conditions are intolerable. For legal purposes, constructive discharge is the equivalent of the employer’s firing the employee.
Constructive discharge occurs when the employer targets an employee and makes working conditions so difficult that it forces the employee to quit.
However, the employee has a legal claim for wrongful terminationonly if the employer targeted the employee for an illegal reason (such as age, race, being a whistleblower, or being pregnant) or if the employer broke an employment contract with the employee.
Proving constructive discharge
Two elements must be present to prove constructive discharge:
- The work environment was so unusually adverse that a reasonable person in the same position would have felt forced to resign, and
- The employer intended to force the resignation or knew about the working conditions.
Courts may also examine whether the employee notified someone in authority about the conditions. Notification gives the employer an opportunity to improve the work environment.
Do you have questions?
If you have questions about constructive discharge or wrongful termination, contact an attorney who is experienced in this area of employment law.