U.S. Supreme Court Clarifies Constructive Discharge under Title VII: Responsibilities and Opportunities for Human Resources Practitioners

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Crumpacker, Jill M.
Crumpacker, Martha
Washburn University. School of Business
Kaw Valley Bank
Issue Date
August 2004
Alternative Title
In 1998, the U.S. Supreme Court established a defense for employers to minimize liability against a Title VII claim of hostile work environment due to a supervisor's harassment unless the employee suffered a tangible employment action, such as termination, demotion, or an undesirable reassignment. At that time, the Supreme Court did not address whether a tangible employment actions includes constructive discharge. Since then, Circuit Courts of Appeals have reached conflicting conclusions, resulting in possible inconsistencies in Human Resources advice and guidance. On June 14, 2004, the Supreme Court resolved the split among the circuits in Pennsylvania State Police v. Suders. This article revisits the current employer liability defense, the effect of the Suders decision on that defense, and the responsibilities and opportunities that Suders imputes to Human Resources practitioners to minimize employer liability in constructive discharge cases.