Are You Being “Quietly Fired” From Your Job?

You’ve no doubt heard of quiet quitting, a viral term used by many employers to demean employees they feel aren’t putting in the effort to perform their work. Although it’s not new, quiet firing is gaining renewed attention as managers treat workers poorly instead of firing them. The ultimate goal is to get the employee to quit—in an effort to avoid liability for wrongful discharge or for paying unemployment and benefits—but is it legal? Maybe not.

What is Quiet Firing?

Quiet firing refers to an unethical and possibly illegal employment practice in which an employer or manager mistreats a worker in a subtle, or not-so-subtle, way without actually terminating them. This may include reducing the employee’s responsibilities, giving them excessive workloads, or removing them from group discussions and decision-making.

Employers and managers use these tactics to force the employee to quit their job without formally firing them. This practice may be illegal if used to discriminate against employees based on their protected class or other protected characteristics. Sometimes, quiet firing can even lead to constructive discharge, which could enable the worker to bring a lawsuit against the employer.

Signs You’re Being Quietly Fired

Do you suspect your employer treats you adversely so that you’ll quit your job? Here are some indications:

  • Your manager gives you extra or unwanted responsibilities with little to no recognition for your efforts.
  • Your manager may disregard or dismiss your input or opinions without justification.
  • Your manager may exclude you from important meetings or communications or limit your access to resources or information you need to do your job.
  • Your performance is closely monitored and critiqued, with negative feedback often repeated or emphasized more than positive feedback.
  • Your job duties may gradually shift away from what you were initially hired for, leaving you feeling confused and underutilized at best, and undermined and devalued at worst.
  • You may experience frequent micromanagement or harassment from your manager, which can create a hostile work environment and ultimately push you towards quitting on their terms.

Why Employers Quietly Fire Workers

An employer might try to quietly fire an employee to avoid costly legal battles or negative publicity. Some employers may also seek to get rid of employees they perceive difficult or not productive enough without having to explicitly terminate them and deal with potential legal consequences.

Managers also play a role. They may use quiet firing tactics to passively assert their power over certain employees or engage in workplace bullying. However, this approach can also be seen as unethical and abusive, especially if it targets employees based on their protected class, such as race, gender, age, sexual orientation, or disability. 

What is Constructive Discharge?

Constructive discharge is similar to wrongful termination. It occurs when an employee quits their job because the employer creates or condones an intolerable or hostile work environment using quiet firing or other tactics. If the tactics succeed and the employee resigns, it can constitute an involuntary termination—one where an employee would be entitled to damages such as lost wages, benefits, mental and emotional distress, attorney fees, and other relief. 

While it may seem subtle or innocuous, this conduct can support a workplace discrimination or harassment claim.

Don’t Be Quiet About Quiet Firing! Talk to a Lawyer!

If you believe you are being subjected to quiet firing tactics in the workplace, you need to consult an experienced lawyer—like the attorneys in Sommers Schwartz’s Employment Litigation Group—to discuss your rights and options. 

Whether you’re a member of a protected class or your employer is simply making your work life miserable, violating your rights may entitle you to financial compensation. Please contact us today to learn how we can help.

Tad T. Roumayah

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Tad T. Roumayah

Tad Roumayah focuses his practice primarily on employment litigation, representing employees who have encountered discrimination, retaliation, wrongful discharge, whistleblower protection claims, wage and hour violations and other employment issues and disputes.