Citing Praise of Boss and Voluntary Extension of Employment, Court Affirms Dismissal of Constructive Discharge Claim

In Byer v. Periodontal Health Specialists of Rochester, PLLC et al, 2021 WL 3276725 (2d Cir. August 2, 2021) (Summary Order), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, inter alia, affirmed the lower court’s order dismissing her claim of constructive discharge. (The court did, however, vacate the dismissal of plaintiff’s hostile work environment claim, which is subject to a different standard.)

The court summarized the black-letter law regarding this claim as follows:

The constructive discharge claim is analyzed under the familiar burden-shifting framework established in McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973). See Green v. Town of East Haven, 952 F.3d 394, 401 (2d Cir. 2020). As a threshold matter, the plaintiff must set forth a prima facie case by proffering evidence that (1) she belongs to a protected group, (2) she was qualified for her position, (3) her employer took an adverse action against her; and (4) “the adverse action occurred in circumstances giving rise to an inference of discrimination.” Kirkland v. Cablevision Sys., 760 F.3d 223, 225 (2d Cir. 2014). On the third prong, a plaintiff makes a prima facie showing of an adverse employment action “if she adduces evidence from which a rational juror could infer that the employer made her working condition, viewed as a whole, so difficult or unpleasant that a reasonable person in the employee’s shoes would have felt compelled to resign.”

Applying the law, the court explained:

[A]s to the constructive discharge claim, we note that within a year prior to her resignation, Byer stated that her “bosses rock,” she was part of an “awesome team,” she would never work for another periodontist, and Dr. Lowenguth was “good people” and like “family.” App’x at 614, 620. Further, Byer decided to resign before October 1, 2015, and yet she stayed on the job until November 6, 2015, and offered to work an additional week if defendants wanted her to do so, militating against a finding that she felt compelled to resign due to defendants’ behavior.

Based on this record, the court agreed “that no rational juror could infer that a reasonable person in Byer’s shoes would have felt compelled to resign.”

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