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No intolerable working conditions?
No constructive discharge.

Stansbury v. Sioux City Community Sch Dist (Iowa Ct App 07/20/2022)
Sent to Custom Alerts™ subscribers on 07/24/2022

Dawn Stansbury was an elementary school principal who resigned after she was demoted to assistant principal. Stansbury then sued the School District, asserting she was constructively discharged from her position on the basis of her gender.

The trial court granted summary judgment for the District, and the Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed, finding that she failed to demonstrate she was subjected to intolerable working conditions.

Prior to Stansbury's demotion, she was placed on a plan of awareness (a precursor to a plan of assistance) which addressed "a barrage of deficiencies, including mismanaging communication with staff before a planned leave, missing a professional development meeting because she was double-booked, and failing to correct the school's declining reading scores."

A year later her supervisor told Stansbury she had a choice — she could take a reassignment as a middle school assistant principal or resign. The new position would have the same pay and work the same hours, though with less responsibility and control.

The District notified Stansbury of her demotion in March, and she resigned in August. She never started the new position and never signed her contract.

Stansbury claimed she was constructively discharged by the District when she was given no choice but to accept the assistant principal position with no hope of promotion or resign. However, Stansbury made no attempt to address her concerns through appropriate channels in the school district—such as the grievance process. She did not reach out to the human resources department or the school board—to give the District a reasonable opportunity to explain how her pay or tenure might be impacted—before resigning.

The court pointed out that "Constructive discharge exists when the employer deliberately makes an employee's working conditions so intolerable that the employee is forced into an involuntary resignation." However, "Without having taken the new assistant principal job, she cannot point to conditions so intolerable as to constitute constructive discharge—as theoretical intolerability premised on suppositions cannot amount to unusually aggravated working conditions that would cause a reasonable person to quit."

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