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What you need to know before quitting

There are many valid reasons to leave employment that is just not working out for you. In particular, someone working in a stressful, unpleasant environment will usually begin thinking of quitting.

However, if your work situation crosses the line from simply unpleasant into illegal harassment, retaliation or discrimination, you may also consider pursuing legal recourse. In such a situation, quitting can complicate your claim, although, it will not necessarily tank it.

Adverse action

Generally, if you allege workplace discrimination or retaliation, you also need to show the employer took specific adverse actions against you. These may typically include demotion, denial of opportunities or firing.

How bad does it have to get

Determining whether conduct rose to the level of harassment can be difficult. The law does not require employers to be nice and polite to employees at all times. Even conduct such as yelling and harsh reprimands may not always constitute harassment.

Constructive discharge

If you quit, you may have a hard time backing up allegations of unlawful conduct by your employer. In some cases, you may be able to argue that the employer constructively discharged you. Constructive discharge can happen if an employer effectively forces you to quit.

Pretexts

Employers who see you as a problem may take steps to make the environment so unpleasant for you that you end up leaving. They would prefer to fire you, but fear that doing so may strengthen any discrimination or retaliation claims against them. Typically, actions that constitute constructive discharge need to be outrageous and far outside the norm of working relations. Some examples include consistent harassment, unfair targeting for discipline and humiliation.

Get the right advice promptly

There are many ways employers can try to undermine claims against them. For this reason, if you have reason to believe you may be targeted for illegal treatment, you should consult an experienced attorney before taking any definitive action such as quitting. While many turn to HR as a first step in solving workplace issues, doing so will not always help you.

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