Threat of Firing or Criminal Charges Not Required For Constructive Discharge Claim


The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit found that the district court had imposed an “unduly stringent” standard for a constructive discharge claim in finding the plaintiff failed to show that she had been given an ultimatum to quit or be fired or threatened with criminal charges.

In Green v. Town of East Haven, the Second Circuit noted that the appropriate legal standard for a constructive discharge claim is whether in light of the evidence as a whole, the working circumstances were so intolerable that a reasonable person in the employee’ shoes would have felt compelled to resign. The Second Circuit found that the plaintiff had met this standard in that, among other things, Internal Affairs determined she had stolen a basket and a package of biscuit dough, that she was told Department officials no longer trusted her, that she was told that if the Internal Affairs report was upheld she would likely be fired, that she was advised to resign or retire if she could, and that her union representative told her she would almost certainly lose at an appeals hearing.

What this case establishes is that while the standard for constructive discharge claims is strict, it does not require an actual threat of firing or criminal charges. Rather, the situation is fact-specific, and many different circumstances can establish a constructive discharge claim.