There is a common misconception amongst employees that if you are forced to resign you are forfeiting any claims of illegality you have against your employer. In fact, in many ways, the law treats a forced resignation like a termination.
Generally, a resignation is something that is done voluntarily on ones own terms. However, a forced resignation, by definition, is involuntarily and often the product of pressure by an employer or supervisor.
In terms of the law, an employee who is forced to resign due to a discriminatory reason is provided the same protections that an employee who is wrongfully terminated due to discriminatory reasons is provided.
Title VII of the Civil Rights act provides that discrimination is prohibited in the workplace during all aspects of employment. Title VII protects employees from differential treatment on basis of protected characteristics, such as, race, color, national origin, age, sex, religion or disability. Title VII applies to all employment decisions, including, hiring, firing, promotion, demotion and compensation decisions. Forced resignation falls under this as well.
Though Title VII only applies to employers with 15 or more employees certain states have extended these protections to smaller employer. In California, the Federal Employment and Housing Act applies to al employers with 5 or more employees.
Title VII equally provides protections for those subjected to harassment in the workplace. Along with the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Title VII protects employees from being harassed for being a member of a protected class. In terms of the law, harassment is defined as any unwelcome conduct that is directed towards someone because of that person’s race, gender, color, religion sex, ethnicity, age or disability.
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), “Harassment becomes unlawful where 1) enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment, or 2) the conduct is severe and pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive. “ (https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/harassment.cfm).
Once again, a forced resignation as a result of a hostile and harassing work environment may be a actionable claim. If your employer has created a work environment in which a reasonable employee would not continue working, they may be responsible for your forced resignation.
Retaliation occurs when an employer or supervisor takes adverse action against an employee because of that employees involvement in a protected activity.
The EEOC states, “The EEO laws prohibit punishing job applicants or employees for asserting their rights to be free from employment discrimination including harassment. Asserting these EEO rights is called “protected activity,” and it can take many forms. For example, it is unlawful to retaliate against applicants or employees for:
- filing or being a witness in an EEO charge, complaint, investigation, or lawsuit
- communicating with a supervisor or manager about employment discrimination, including harassment
- answering questions during an employer investigation of alleged harassment
- refusing to follow orders that would result in discrimination
- resisting sexual advances, or intervening to protect others
- requesting accommodation of a disability or for a religious practice
- asking managers or co-workers about salary information to uncover potentially discriminatory wages.”
If an employee is forced to resign because of retaliation for a similar situation, the employer could be held liable for this action through the EEOC or in court.
Though those who are forced into resignation are provided many protections, it is important to note that some of their legal rights can be affected by resigning. For example, often times employees who resign are unable to received unemployment benefits. Furthermore, some resignation documents can include clauses in which the employee agrees to waive any future claims against the employer.
Any employee who is considering the resigning should carefully read every document that they are asked to sign during the process. Furthermore, it may be good idea to consult with an attorney who has experience in the area prior to making final decision.
If you feel as though you are being forced to resign, you should contact an attorney who has experience in labor and employment law. The laws governing forced resignations are complex. There are strict regulations governing the process for filing a lawsuit. Furthermore, there are strict time restrictions, known as statute of limitations, as to when a lawsuit can be filed. The experienced attorneys at Shegerian Conniff are ready to hold your employer accountable, fight for your legal rights, and seek justice. Click here to contact us today or call us at 310-322-7500 for a free consultation.