Can an employer force you to quit your job?
Federal law protects people who blow the whistle on misbehavior at their jobs. This is to keep workplaces accountable and protect employees who want to do the right thing. Your employer may understand that firing you as a whistleblower may invite legal consequences, but that does not mean your employer might not try to get you to quit your job.
There are some employers who try to get around federal protections by inducing a whistleblower employee to resign. In theory, this action avoids a charge of harassment or wrongful termination. However, coercing an employee to quit can also be an illegal act.
An employer may engage in certain actions that make a whistleblower’s working life intolerable. For example, you might find that a pay raise you were about to receive is suddenly withdrawn. You may lose perks and privileges that you know you deserve. Some workplaces go as far as to move a whistleblower to a less desirable office or reassign a parking spot to an inconvenient location.
If you are subject to this kind of treatment, you may decide it is not worth it and quit your job. The law calls this kind of resignation a constructive discharge, which under state law is a form of wrongful termination.
Arizona law and constructive discharges
State law addresses the issue of constructive discharge, so you may have recourse if you feel harassed for speaking out against unlawful workplace activity. According to Arizona law, a court can establish constructive discharge with objective evidence of unpleasant or harsh working conditions that would induce a reasonable employee to leave his or her job. Alternatively, you may present evidence of outrageous conduct on the part of the employer or the employer’s managing agent.
Keep in mind that some actions such as office reassignments may not be the result of coercive actions. They may be due to a legitimate shuffling of office resources. It is important to examine the circumstances at your workplace carefully to ensure you have a solid case.