Constructive Discharge Claim Revived from Summary Judgment Dismissal

In Green v. Town of East Haven, 2020 WL 1146687 (2d Cir. March 10, 2020), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, inter alia, vacated a district court’s order grantinf defendant’s motion for summary judgment dismissing plaintiff’s claim of age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) under a theory of constructive discharge.

The court recited the operative legal standard as follows:

A plaintiff may prove a constructive discharge by establishing that his employer, rather than acting directly, deliberately made his working conditions so intolerable that [he was] forced into an involuntary resignation, and such an intolerable condition may be shown by evidence that the employer gave the plaintiff the choice of resigning or being fired[.] [Citations omitted; formatting altered.]

As this, and countless other, cases illustrate, this standard is far easier to state than to apply.

In sum, the Court rejected the district court’s adoption of a “substantive controlling principle … that a plaintiff cannot show that a threat of termination constituted a constructive discharge unless the threat (a) was a categorical ultimatum that if she did not resign she would be fired, and (b) was delivered by an ultimate decisionmaker as to firing,” finding that this “imposed a legal standard at an unwarranted level of specificity.”