The Meat of the Problem

Published:  October 10, 2017

Massachusetts Superior Court Judge J. Gavin Reardon has ruled that unpaid wages in and of itself do not amount to constructive discharge.

The Plaintiff, an employee at a sandwich shop, claimed he was forced to work 45 hours a week and the Defendants (employer) eventually ceased paying him altogether.  For three weeks, Plaintiff adds, he continued to work without pay. When asked for back pay, he claims Defendants simply replied the company ran out of money to pay him. The Plaintiff argued that under these conditions, a reasonable person would have no choice but to resign.  Based on this premise, Plaintiff claimed constructive discharge and alleges he is owed back pay.

Defendants, in their motion to dismiss the complaint, claimed Plaintiff’s interpretation of constructive discharge does not have merit. Specifically, Defendants urged that as a result of the meritless constructive discharged claim, the Plaintiff's case should be dismissed.

Judge J. Gavin Reardon agreed with the Defendants, and granted their motion to dismiss. Specifically, on the issue of constructive discharge, Reardon concluded that as an at-will employee's decision to resign, as a result of non-payment, affords him no claim of constructive discharge. In response to this ruling, Plaintiff's attorney is poised that a refilling of the claim in District Court, with a clearly articulated retaliation claim, will garner them success.  

This case reflects courts grappling with both the limitations and requirements of constructive discharge claims. Both employee and employer representatives highly debate this ruling and it will be important to see how this case will proceed once it is appealed and/or reopened in District Court.  Please check back soon for any breaking updates on this and any other labor and employment law matters.

Should you have any questions on this topic or other employment and labor related matters, please contact the attorneys at Royal, P.C.