Constructive Discharge Claims Dismissed; Alleged “Unpleasant” and “Difficult” Working Conditions Were Insufficient

In 14 Street Medical, P.C. v. Khan, No. 152388/2023, 2023 WL 7924835 (N.Y. Sup Ct, New York County Nov. 16, 2023), the court, inter alia, granted the defendant’s (here, the employee, sued for breach of contract) counterclaim for “constructive discharge” under the New York State and City Human Rights Laws.

In sum, the plaintiff (a medical practice) hired the defendant (a medical doctor); the parties’ relationship was governed by a physician-employment agreement. Plaintiff sued defendant alleging breach of that agreement; in response, defendant interposed counterclaims alleging, among other things, constructive discharge.

As to that claim, the court explained:

The standard for alleging a claim of constructive discharge is higher than the standard for establishing a hostile work environment where, as here, the alleged constructive discharge stems from the alleged hostile work environment. To establish constructive discharge, plaintiff must produce evidence that her employer deliberately created working conditions so intolerable, difficult or unpleasant that a reasonable person would have felt compelled to resign. … Here, defendant has failed to establish constructive termination. The documentary evidence shows that defendant voluntarily tendered her resignation. She expressed her will to do so in her communication addressed to Kutner dated February 21, 2023, where she states, “I want out and don’t want to deal with [sic] anymore” and “I am not returning to this practice starting tomorrow.” While defendant found the working conditions unpleasant and difficult, defendant has not shown that plaintiff’s conduct was so intolerable that she had no choice but to resign.

[Cleaned up.]

The court likewise found that defendant did not show that the plaintiff retaliated against her. On this point, the court held that while defendant’s filing of a discrimination charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) constituted “protected activity,” there was neither evidence of an “adverse employment action” nor of a causal connection between the protected activity and the alleged adverse actions.

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