WLAD & The Constructive Discharge Provision

Under the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD), is there a provision for constructive discharge? Here’s my point of view (NOTE: please read our DISCLAIMER before proceeding).


Under the WLAD, it is an unfair practice, with very few exceptions, for an employer to refuse to hire any person, to discharge or bar any person from employment, or to discriminate against any person in compensation or in other terms and conditions of employment because of age (40+); sex (including pregnancy); marital status; sexual orientation (including gender identity); race; color; creed; national origin; citizenship or immigration status; honorably discharged veteran or military status; HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C status; the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability; and state-employee or health-care whistleblower status. It is also an unfair practice for an employer to retaliate against an employee because the employee complained about job discrimination or assisted with a job discrimination investigation or lawsuit.

Employment-discrimination plaintiffs often use the theory of constructive discharge to build viable claims under both the WLAD and similar federal laws. Take our Constructive Discharge Test (video):


Generally, a constructive discharge occurs "where an employer forces an employee to quit by making that employee's work conditions intolerable." Martini v. The Boeing Company, 137 Wn.2d 357, 378 n.3 (Wash. 1999) (citing Barrett v. Weyerhaeuser Co. Severance Pay Plan, 40 Wash.App. 630, 631, 700 P.2d 338 (1985)). "The doctrine of constructive discharge has been described by … [the Washington State Supreme Court] as requiring a deliberate act of the employer creating the intolerable condition, without regard to the employer's mental state as to the resulting consequence." Id. at 366 (citing Bulaich, v. AT & T Info. Sys., 113 Wash.2d 254, 261, 778 P.2d 1031 (1989)) (internal quotation marks omitted) (hyperlink added). 


RCW 49.60.180(2) is a subsection of WLAD that deals with discharge of an employee. It "has been interpreted to include a prohibition against constructive discharge." Martini, 137 Wn.2d at 366 (citing Bulaich v. AT & T Info. Sys., 113 Wash.2d 254, 259, 778 P.2d 1031 (1989)) (hyperlink added).

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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