SUBJECT: Constructive Discharge Case
The recent changed in the company’s policy on shift work requiring production staff to work rotating 12-hour shifts with four days at work and then four days off to meet growing demands of customers prompted the employee to quit. The employee’s constructive discharge lawsuit claimed that the policy change is discriminatory because it requires employees to work on a religious holy day thereby creating an intolerable working condition that forced the employee to quit rather than suffer more abuse which is why constructive discharge as a legal concept is relevant to the scenario.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees and job applicants of companies with 15 or more employees from the employer’s unlawful employment practice of discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. This law also established the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), an independent federal agency that enforces laws against workplace discrimination.
Courts have developed two different tests for determining when an employee has been constructively discharged by a discriminatory employer (Finnegan, 1986):
1. The Reasonable Person Test or majority view - an employee who resigns after being subjected to unlawful discrimination is said to have been constructively discharged if a reasonable person would have found the discriminatory conditions to be intolerable.
2. The Specific Intent Test or minority view - a plaintiff must show not only that conditions were intolerable, but also that the employer created those conditions with specific intent of forcing the employee to resign.
An employee who seeks religious accommodation must make the employer aware both of the need for accommodation and that it is being requested due to a conflict between religion and work. The employee is obligated to explain the religious nature of the belief or practice at issue, and cannot assume that the employer will already know or understand it (U.S. Equal Employment, 2008). Implementing the policy change was required for the company to increase its production to meet customer demands. The policy was implemented in good faith and was not intended to discriminate against any company employees.
The employee not only failed to communicate the need for a reasonable accommodation with the management to fulfill religious obligations but also assumed that the employer made the policy to discriminate based on the employee’s religion. The company was not aware that the problem existed and was never given the opportunity to rectify it. It was blind sided by the employee’s actions of quitting and afterwards suing for constructive discharge.
The implementation of the policy change was the result of the...