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Ask the HR Expert — November 21, 2017

Jill Schaefer /
  • Categories: HR
Workplace Exclusion

Q: I have noticed that one of my employees is often socially excluded by other employees during lunch periods, company events, meetings, etc.

If this employee resigns as a result of social exclusion from other coworkers, could it be considered a “constructive discharge?”

A: Based on the information you provided, KPA’s HR consultants think that this situation would be considered a constructive discharge should the excluded employee choose to leave your organization.

What’s the big deal?
To back up a smidgen, constructive discharge is defined as “an employee leaving a job because working conditions have grown intolerable.”

Employees who resign because of a constructive discharge have the same legal rights as employees who are fired. As a result, the employee may be eligible for unemployment benefits. In addition, your employee may also bring a wrongful “termination” claim against your organization.

Next Steps
You’ve observed the situation play out, but you may want to start planning your next moves. Things seem to be getting worse.

If the employee in question ever tells you about his/her concerns regarding team members’ behavior, you’ll need to fully investigate the matter and address it accordingly.

Bottom Line:
Coworkers who exclude another coworker at work-related events may be creating intolerable working conditions that force the affected employee to leave. Do what you can to encourage inclusivity and be prepared to investigate the matter if the employee brings it to your attention.

Additional Resource
Employment Law Firm’s “What is Constructive Discharge?” blog post

 

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