Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Should I Stay or Should I Go? What to do when you are harassed at work.

Clients facing difficulties at work often ask me: "Should I just quit?" I often respond that there are two ways to look at the question.

1.The Legal Answer. Quitting will not usually help the employee who is considering taking legal action against his or her employer. It is better to consult an attorney, have that attorney file your claim, and endure while the legal process runs its course.

Quitting may cutoff any claim for back pay, unless your working conditions are so intolerable that you can prove a constructive discharge(discussed here)

Quitting may make it more difficult to collect unemployment benefits unless the employee can prove he or she quit for "good cause." Good cause is explained here at page 16.

Most anti-discrimination and wage and hour statutes have provisions that forbid employers from retaliating against an employee who complains in good faith that his or her employer is violating the law. As a result, an employee who make his or her complaint known to his or her employer has an added measure of legal protection. The United States Supreme Court recently addressed Title VII's anti-retaliation protections in the Burlington Northern case.

2.The Reality Check: If going to work is so bad that it is affecting your emotional health, you should consider quitting. You should weigh the potential legal advantages of sticking it out against the emotional toll of continuing to work at you current job. I often tell unhappy employees that ending your current employment relationship will not help your legal claim, but may be the best decision you ever make since it gives you the opportunity to find a better job.

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