Demotion Without Job Description Considered Constructive Discharge

March 8, 2012

Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits employers from discriminating against their employees “because of” their race or color. This means that an employer may not take your race or color into consideration when making employment decisions, and taking an “adverse action” because of your race may be a violation of federal employment discrimination laws.

An “adverse action” includes negative employment actions such as firing, not promoting and not hiring based on an individual’s race (or other prohibited consideration.) A recent case evaluated whether a demotion could be considered a constructive discharge entitling the employee to a jury award.

In Sanders v. Lee Cnty. Sch. Dist., a white woman, Sharon Sanders, who worked as a finance coordinator was demoted after black members became a school board majority. Evidence showed that after working for several years as a finance coordinator, and within 2 months after a new school board was appointed made up of a black majority, Sanders was demoted to “food services assistant.” Although Sanders never performed the job, a jury determined that sufficient evidence existed that defendants created “such an intolerable working environment that a reasonable person would have felt compelled to resign.”

Upholding the award, the appellate court noted, “We have previously recognized a plaintiff may support a constructive discharge claim with evidence that she was reassigned to a new position which ‘a reasonable person in [her] position would find demeaning and intolerable,' “Here, a reasonable jury could conclude the change in position from finance coordinator to food services assistant was a demotion with a diminution in title and significantly decreased responsibilities, and that a reasonable person in Sanders' position would find the assignment demeaning.”

Adverse actions generally include those actions that negatively impact an employee – such as firing, failing to hire and actions that make a work intolerable. The bottom line – your race should not be a factor in any employment decision. If you believe your employer has improperly made decisions about your employment based on used your race or color, it is important to consult with an experienced employment discrimination attorney at once to determine your next steps.

For more information and to answer your employment discrimination questions, please contact the dedicated Georgia race discrimination lawyers at The Buckley Law Firm, LLC for a confidential consultation.