Constructive Discharge In WA State

Constructive Discharge In WA State

Under Washington State law, what is a constructive discharge? Here's my point of view (NOTE: please read our DISCLAIMER before proceeding).


A constructive discharge arises "where an employer deliberately makes an employee's working conditions intolerable, thereby forcing the employee to resign." Sneed v. Barna, 80 Wash.App. 843, 849-50, 912 P.2d 1035, review denied, 129 Wash.2d 1023, 919 P.2d 600 (1996) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted) (emphasis added). 

The term "deliberately" entails a deliberate act, or a pattern of conduct, "of the employer creating the intolerable condition, without regard to the employer's mental state as to the resulting consequence." Id.Barnett v. Sequim Valley Ranch, LLC, 174 Wn.App. 475, 485, 302 P.3d 500 (Div. 2 2013) (internal citation omitted).

The question to be answered is "whether working conditions would have been so difficult or unpleasant that a reasonable person in the employee's shoes would have felt compelled to resign." Sneed v. Barna, 80 Wash.App. at  849 (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). "This is an objective standard and an employee's subjective belief that he had no choice but to resign is irrelevant." Barnett v. Sequim Valley Ranch, LLC, 174 Wn.App. at 485 (citing Travis v. Tacoma Pub. Sch. Dist., 120 Wash.App. 542, 551, 85 P.3d 959 (2004)) (internal quotation marks omitted).


Typically, the question of "whether working conditions have risen to an 'intolerable' level is a factual question for the jury." Sneed v. Barna, 80 Wash.App. at  849 (internal citations omitted). Often, the courts will "look for evidence of either 'aggravating circumstances' or a 'continuous pattern of discriminatory treatment' to support a constructive discharge claim." Id. at 850 (internal citations omitted).

Learn More

If you would like to learn more, then consider contacting an experienced Washington State Employment Discrimination Attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case. Please note: the information contained in this article is not offered as legal advice and will not form an attorney-client relationship with either this author or Williams Law Group; please see our DISCLAIMER.


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