Should I Quit My Job If I’m Being Sexually Harassed or Subjected to Discrimination?

By Jack Tuckner, Esq.

So, let’s say your job stinks. You’re being treated differently. It’s a hostile work environment. You can’t stand it anymore. And you know that what they’re doing is not right. For example, you’re being sexually harassed, if you’re a woman or you’re being treated badly ever since you told your boss you’re pregnant or because you’re taking maternity leave, or because you came back from maternity leave and they’re angry because you were gone for three months, or because as a person of color, you feel you’re constantly drawing the short stick at work, meaning you’re being discriminated against, or for any other protected reason, like a disability that you have and perhaps you needed your employer to be more flexible and give you time off, or some adjustment to your schedule, or working remotely because of your temporary disability or impairment. Keep in mind that the worst thing that you could do at that point is quit.

Do not quit your job and then call a lawyer. That happens for some reason constantly, I think because people feel they need to get out of this awful environment before they try to hold their employer accountable for the discrimination. But unless you have another job waiting for you, and if you do, do you have a comparable job, a job offer on the table, take it, then by all means, quit your job, and you could write to your employer and tell them what you really think of them.

But if you don’t have another job lined up, do not quit and then call a lawyer because you’ll give up all your legal leverage. It’s a fundamental tenet of employment law. If you quit, you’re voluntarily abandoning your position, and unless it’s something so outrageous, that over time, you have your boss sending you sex texts, or you have something that is truly an outlier case of some kind of, you know, mammoth proportion, most of the time, quitting will just mean that you really are giving up the ability to hold your employer accountable. The ability to get them to negotiate with you, if you need and want a divorce, so to speak, they will negotiate with you if you’re still working there,, and then you complain about discrimination because your employer needs their feet held to the fire so that they investigate your civil rights complaint. And even if they don’t see it your way, that may set up the ability to hold them accountable with a settlement or a severance package so that you can leave with your head held high, dignity. having taught them a lesson, with some money to show for it, and their agreement not to contest your claim for unemployment benefits, even though you’re not being fired, etc. And also, it will allow you to potentially, if you are fired after you complain, to then bring a viable discrimination claim or threaten to bring one in order to hold your company to account.

That’s the whole show. Don’t quit, and then call a lawyer, because that’s the worst thing. When I see that, when someone has good facts of a good case, because they’re really being treated terribly because of some protected status and they’ve quit the day before they call us for help in a consultation, it’s really an upsetting thing, because at that point, you’re a dollar short and a day late.

So don’t quit. If you’re dealing with discrimination in the workplace, a hostile work environment, you’re being treated differently as a woman, a person of color, because of your age, because your disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, there are a number of protected categories under federal and almost every state’s law, that will protect you from being treated differently. But you have to stay in the game, complain to your employer and see what they do. You want to make sure that you document your protected complaint and before you do so, it may make sense to call a qualified Plaintiff-side employment lawyer in your area to get advice and strategize on what you should do to empower yourself, get more ammunition on your side. Again, why? Because you’re feeling devalued in the workplace and you’re dealing with all this stress of putting up with this legally protected unfairness because of the way you’re treated.

So, you don’t want to just walk away from the workplace because that’s what your employer would love you to do. Give up the ghost on yourself, right? Quit, you’re out of there, except then you won’t even be eligible to get unemployment, let alone a settlement for what you’ve been through. So don’t quit. If you have a complaint about discriminatory treatment, put it in writing to your employer, wait for their response, and you should call an employment lawyer to advise you, if possible, with regard to your individualized situation, in order to maximize any potential outcome.

This is Jack Tuckner with the New York City based law firm, Tuckner, Sipser, Weinstock & Sipser. Feel free to reach out to us for advice and counsel regarding how to optimally handle it. Take care of yourselves.