by Michael Fox
A new concept on me I must admit. Probably because there are not many cases where it would really make a difference whether it was a discharge or a resignation, but this case presented one such case. Under the collective bargaining agreement, if the employee were deemed to have resigned she would owe the employer $14,500 in a relocation bonus. If she were terminated, even for cause, she would not. The district court found her conduct, basically gross insubordination was sufficient to meet the test under Wisconsin state law for constructive resignation. The 7th Circuit noted that the standard, almost of necessity was extremely vague which made it a poor case for summary judgement. Bean v. Wisconsin Bell (7th Cir. 4/26/04) [pdf]. While affirming the district court's grant of summary judgment on the racial discrimination claim, it reversed summary judgment in favor of the employer on constructive resignation, and sent it back to the trial court with a gentle hint that the court might want to kick it back to state court since no federal issue remained. My guess is that is precisely what will happen. But for me, I learned a new concept --- constructive resignation ... I like the sound of it.