By Amy E. Feldman
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – You’re fired! You’re discharged! Constructively, that is.
If you’re a spokesman for a politician, you’re probably used to finessing the truth. But when you work for a mayor, who first tells you that he didn’t have an affair, so you tell the press, and then says ‘well ok, I had an affair with a woman’, so you tell the press, and then says, ‘some of which started before she was technically a woman but actually when she was a 17-year-old girl’, you might have trouble retaining credibility.
If you worked for the mayor of Portland, Oregon, as Wade Nkrumah did, you might say: I can’t take it anymore and quit. But Mr. Nkrumah then sued for wrongful discharge, saying that, although he said the words: I quit, he actually was constructively discharged.
When people hear the phrase “constructive discharge” they think it’s nice, you know, termination but one that involves constructive criticism: you’re fired, but not because you’re not a good person but because some of your skills will be better appreciated elsewhere. In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s when your boss won’t officially fire you but will make your life a living hell until you can’t stand it any longer and quit.
But the court found that Mr. Nkrumah wasn’t constructively discharged – no one was making his work environment so awful that he had no choice. Instead, when he said “I quit”, they took him at his word.