What You Need To Know About Constructive Discharge Claims In Illinois
Constructive discharge can be a complex and challenging process. Here’s what you need to know about filing a claim for constructive discharge in Illinois.
Constructive discharge is when an employee quits because the working conditions are intolerable and sometimes illegal. Illinois allows employees to demonstrate a good cause for quitting to collect unemployment benefits. Employees can also file claims and lawsuits against employers.
What Is Constructive Discharge in Illinois?
Constructive discharge is when an employer creates an intolerable working condition forcing an employee to resign. While employers do not directly terminate an employee, unbearable or illegal working conditions make it difficult for employees to work.
What Is An At-Will Employment State?
Illinois is an “employment-at-will” state, meaning an employer or employee may terminate the relationship at any time, without any reason or cause. Illinois’ at-will employment laws do not require the employee or the employer to provide notice of termination of employment.
However, two exceptions apply. Employers cannot violate any provisions outlined in an employee’s contract or a labor union agreement. If the contracts require an employer to show cause, then an employer must do so.
Employers cannot fire or discriminate against an employee based on a protected characteristic.
Protected characteristics include:
- National origin,
- Citizenship status,
- Marital status,
- Physical or mental handicap, and
- Military service or unfavorable military discharge.
Related: At-Will Employment in Illinois
Constructive Discharge Laws in Illinois
Illinois does not offer unemployment benefits to employees who voluntarily quit their job unless it is for a good cause. Good cause means an employer had a reasonable reason to quit. Good cause may constitute a constructive discharge.
Good cause can include:
- Employers broke state or federal laws,
- Working conditions or terms negatively changed,
- Employers discriminated against employees,
- Employer refuses to pay earned wages,
- Employers cut hours, benefits, or pay rates, or
- Employer changed work shifts, causing child care or transportation issues.
However, before an employer can quit, they must demonstrate an attempt to resolve any issues with their employer. Employees should consult their employee handbook to determine how to address an employer’s actions or policies. Employees must follow any procedures or requirements the handbook outlines.
Employees should also keep all records of communications between them and their employer. If the interaction is in-person, employees should take notes after documenting the interaction if the interaction is in-person. Additionally, employees should follow up with supervisors via email after any meetings to establish a line of clear communication.
Filing A Claim After Constructive Discharge
Employees should file a claim with the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) immediately after quitting. IDES can evaluate the employee’s case to determine if they have good cause to qualify for unemployment benefits.
Employees can also file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) if they believe their employer discriminated against them. The IDHR and EEOC have a work-sharing agreement, meaning that the agencies work together to investigate discrimination claims.
The EEOC asks employees to file claims through their public portal. Employees will receive a report with the investigator’s findings once the investigation is complete. The employee has 30 days from the day they receive the report to request a hearing and decisions from an administrative judge or receive a determination from the EEOC.
Related: Taking Time Off Work in Illinois
Employees can file a claim with IDHR electronically or mail the forms to the nearest IHDHR office. There are two IDHR offices in Illinois, Chicago, and Springfield offices. If the IDHR accepts the claim, they will send a charge to the employer.
The statute of limitations to file a workplace gender discrimination claim is 300 days under the IDHR and between 180-300 days for the EEOC.
Employees should also consult an employment attorney. Attorneys can help employees navigate the claims process and file lawsuits against an employer.