Employee ‘compelled to quit’ is difficult to prove

A Sept. 22, 2017, decision from the New Hampshire federal trial court of Karen Mead v. Fairpoint Communications Inc. illustrates what an employee needs to prove when she sues her employer for wrongful termination when, in fact, the employee resigned. This is what is called a constructive discharge claim and the employee making such a claim must show that a reasonable person in her position would perceive the change in her work conditions so onerous, abusive or unpleasant that a reasonable person in that employee’s position would have felt compelled to resign. In addition to that she would have to show, that resignation was treated like a firing that would take the claim outside the employment at will relationship. In this case, Karen Mead alleged gender discrimination, hostile work environment, as well as Equal Pay Act claims in this constructive discharge claim, all of which Fairpoint attempted to get dismissed on summary judgment, yet the federal trial judge denied that motion. If she had been fired as a result of gender discrimination, she could seek damages for such a wrongful firing and therefore, if she can prove, she was constructively discharge because of gender discrimination, she also could recover for such a wrongful firing. A summary judgment motion alleges that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that movant in this case, Fairpoint, is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Fairpoint’s motion for summary judgment was denied. In denying that motion the Court did not find in favor of Karen Mead in the underlying claims, but found that she has the right to a trial in that there were genuine issues of material fact based upon the allegations she asserted.

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