Employment Case

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It may be easy for Donald Trump to say, "You're fired,” but the U.S. Supreme Court has to decide whether the conditions, which led one to leave employment, are the same as being fired.

A Pennsylvania woman says she quit her job after being regularly taunted by her male co-workers. The argument is that those conditions, also called quitting under duress, are the same as termination.

"Basically, the issue is, was the work environment so hostile or the work conditions so bad, that no reasonable person could have been able to endure?" says Walt Auvil, a Parkersburg attorney specializing in employment issues. "If the answer is yes, then it could be treated as a termination, even though the person quit."

An element of this case is something that's at the heart of sexual harassment issues. That's the issue of whether the worker's departure is the result of a hostile working environment.

But a local attorney, who deals in employment matters, says a distinction can be made between this and a typical sexual harassment case.

"It probably wouldn't be enough to create 'constructive discharge,'" Auvil says, "or to say it was so intolerable so that nobody would be able to endure it. You can have one without the other."

The high court's previous rulings have found companies liable for harassment, regardless of whether top managers knew about it. It has also found companies could be held liable if the harassed worker was fired or demoted.