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Does Illinois Recognize Constructive Discharge due to Extreme Change In Working Conditions?

by Aimee Ley
(Roselle, Illinois)

I ended up quitting my job of almost two years.

Less than two weeks after I was hired for customer service which was to entail: answering phones, entering orders and completing claims for customers......the employer started adding job duties....they kept coming and were not stopping.
-janitorial duties weekly
-warehouse production work
-assisting sales reps
-assisting accts receivable

Then the company started losing business and they let people go. I was given the work of a lady they let go in addition to all the above they kept adding.
I was having anxiety attacks and panicky crying spells in the car on the way to work almost daily. I was working an additional 10+ hours every week to stay on top of all this work which I was not paid for.

Then in the end of February of 2009 they called a meeting and told me and another girl Sherry that we would now also be assigned days in the warehouse every week on top of it all. We were also told some of our benefits were being taken away.
I sent my boss an email after the meeting offering that I would take a cut in hours so they could give this warehouse work to one of the CHEAPER temps they used to have come in. Cheaper by about $2 per hour. They ignored my suggestion. I did talk to both co-workers and supervisors about the work, my health and EVERYTHING but I was always just given reasons why they were that way and no offer of resolution or compromise was of any interest to them ever.

Can I win or at least have a chance of winning my upcoming appeal hearing claiming that it was constructive dismissal. I was forced by the employer's actions to quit? This whole thing was wretched and hurting my mental and physical health. I even had to go to the emergency room straight from work about 6 mos. earlier due to chest pains and extremely high blood pressure and ended up with over $8000.00 in medical bills!

Hi Aimee,

Yes of course!! It's called quitting due to intolerable working conditions, unreasonable change in the working conditions, unacceptable working conditions.

The strength of your case
will lie in the testimony you give and any documentation you may possess which can show you first made efforts to preserve the employment prior to quitting .. not to mention the 10 hours a week you worked and were not being paid for (personally been there, done that).

The big thing I think many people have a hard time with is understanding that when you get to an unemployment appeal hearing the real details and facts are developed by a person skilled at getting to the crux of the matter and often times regardless of documentation a decision is based on who's testimony the ALJ finds to be more credible.

To prepare for an unemployment hearing can be difficult for a person because they aren't aware of the elements that an ALJ is looking for. The burden does not need to proven beyond a shadow of a doubt .. like in real court, but rather by a preponderance.

Your entire focus should be upon the ever increasing workload which took more and more time to do and the fact that the employer did not compensate you for that additional time. Your health issues are also relevant if the employer was made aware.

Your attempts to make the job a reasonable job are a good thing. ALJ's always want to know what a claimant did to try to preserve the employment. It's basic. It shows the employer was put on notice that things were getting out of hand and unreasonable.

This is exactly the reason most employer have handbooks. It lays out the rules and has a discipline policy so an employee knows what to expect, but this same book can be used by employees in the very same way because they also usually have rules and procedures for an employee complaint process.

Don't get too emotional, listen to the ALJ's instructions and tone. Be factual, and clear. Make a list of points you believe would be valid examples which will support your position and examples of the employers inaction.

I think you have a very good chance of winning, but I won't know unless you come on back and update us here with a comment.

Good Luck Aimee,


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Mar 29, 2018
For: constructive discharge /termination
by: Chris -

The circumstances of your wife's current employment do not support a constructive discharge by the new manager, because she is still partially employed, but I would strongly suggest, she open an unemployment claim for partial benefits due to the substantial reduction in the hours she now works each week, to avoid those reduced hours affecting the weekly benefit amount she could receive if fully unemployed. This is because of monetary qualifying issues connected to any claim's base period. (Base periods and benefit amounts are broken down in the monetary chartbook.)

However, let me get to the reason this manager made the decision to reduce your wife's hours shortly after her return from an FMLA leave and fill those hours she used to work, with new hires, you tell me are friends of the new manager.

That is behavior by an "agent" acting on behalf of the employer (company) that would cause me to personally make my own visit to HR, or I would at least, follow whatever the employer's policy might be, to grieve pretty much any problem with the work, or a manager, or even co-worker, to find a resolution .. and I would use email to document the resolution process to my advantage.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, if an employee goes so far as to complain, or grieve any problem to a higher authority than their manager, or co-worker, such as an HR rep, .. to not document your action, and the employer's reaction to your complaint, is like preparing to spin your wheels when you tell the whole sad story to an UI dept, who only has jurisdiction to find out why .. and how someone quit, or was fired .. potentially, if efforts to resolve the problem don't go well.

Also, in the interest of weighting facts for any reason an employee might actually raise a complaint to the HR level, I think it can be a good thing if the employee can also bring attention to be specific about an unreasonable action of a manage, such as a reduction in hours .. being questionable because of a specified employee right.

Sounds to me, like your wife's case, should have you checking into FMLA retaliation, or at least FMLA compliance guidelines for employers, to see if this manager's action to reduce your wife's employment from generally full-time (DOLETA monetary chartbookDOLETA monetary chartbook indicates less than 32 hours per week, is sufficient for a partial UI claim) might ring an alarm bell regarding your wife's rights as an employee for a dedicated HR professional, who does look out for the best interest of some fairly lackadaisical employers when it comes to the rights of at-will employees.

The fact it wasn't only her hours being reduced, it was the requirement for her to now have to work night shifts, that made me think if this is happening in Illinois, you might want to check out the issue of suitable work in IDES unemployment law handbook .. also linked to on the free resource page with DOLETA chartbooks too.

Mar 29, 2018
constructive discharge /termination
by: Anonymous

My wife is in her 7th year with the company she works for. last year she had cancer surgery and was off for just over 3 months after her last of 4 surgeries. When she was released to and did return to work by her doctor she was given her hours back by the manager at the time. A few weeks later (3 to 4 weeks) the new manager began putting her on nights and hiring a lot of people who were the manager's friends the schedule my wife had. Along with that she has cut her hours from 29 to 35 per week to the current eleven and a half hours. Does this qualify for "constructive termination/discharge"/

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