In discrimination cases, employees have the burden of proving that they work in a hostile environment. Simply claiming that they were teased, singled out, punished harshly or ignored is not enough basis for a valid claim.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit recently heard a case in which an Ohio nurse alleged reverse racial discrimination against his employer. The nurse, a white man, had difficulties with his new supervisor, a black man.
The nurse started his position at U.S. Renal Care’s Ohio clinic in October 2013. He was transferred to the Kenwood clinic and worked there without incident until May 2014. That was when his supervisor, a black woman, was replaced by a black man.
The nurse claims that his problems started a month later. He was singled out on numerous occasions. The first issue was when he was told to stop wearing black jeans to work.
The nurse also claims that he faced unfair punishment. He received warnings for inadequate patient charting, but claims he made no such mistakes. When he received the final warning, he was forced to sign it without being given the opportunity to respond. When the man filed a complaint with human resources, he was ignored.
The nurse’s replacement and others at the clinic are also white and so far have not received poor treatment, so the court found little basis for the man’s claim. To compound the situation, the man resigned from his position due to the alleged discrimination. He claimed an adverse action called constructive discharge.
If the nurse’s allegations were true, they were not deemed significant enough to claim constructive discharge. Harassment requires a high level of proof that the nurse did not provide. Therefore, the court ruled in favor of the employer.
Constructive discharge is a valid form of resignation for an employee who has suffered from a hostile work environment. A hostile work environment is defined as one that involves sexual harassment, racism or extreme criticism toward someone’s race, disability, age, gender or religion.
Other less common situations that would also qualify as a hostile work environment include taking FMLA leave, filing a workers’ compensation claim, asking for a reasonable accommodation for a disability, filing a claim as a whistleblower or asking for overtime that you were entitled to receive.
Having a mean boss or bullying co-workers is not enough to resign under constructive discharge. However, if you quit your job due to mistreatment by your boss or co-workers, it is possible in some cases to receive unemployment benefits.
No matter what type of discrimination you face in the workplace, don’t quit your job without talking to a lawyer first. If you resign from your job without enough proof that you worked in a hostile environment, your employer will likely prevail in court.
If you believe you are a victim of discrimination in the workplace, know your rights. Contact the lawyers at Marshall Forman & Schlein LLC to file a claim against your employer. Call us at (614) 463-9790 to schedule a consultation.
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