The concept of “quiet firing” has gained a lot of attention in the past few years. Rather than terminate an employee outright, management just treats targeted employees with so much disregard or disdain that they end up feeling pushed out. Most will eventually quit.
Is this illegal? It may be. Here’s why:
It could be a violation of employment laws
Quiet firing might involve discriminatory practices, harassment or other violations of employment laws. For example, if the employees who experience quiet firing are all above 40 years of age, they may be victims of age discrimination.
Quiet firing can also be an act of retaliation, especially if the mistreatment starts right after an employee engages in a protected activity, such as asking for workers’ compensation benefits or complaining about working conditions.
What does quiet firing look like? Consider these examples:
- Micromanagement: Sudden micromanagement of an employee’s work can put them under tremendous stress. So can subjecting them to unwarranted criticisms and negative performance reviews without justification.
- Isolation: Keeping an employee from essential work activities or deliberately excluding them from team communications can be tactics used in quiet firing. They’re designed to make an employee feel isolated and unwelcome.
- Drastic changes in responsibilities: Taking away someone’s workload and assigning them “busy work” to humiliate them into quitting is another tactic that might be used.
Quiet firing often leads to charges of constructive discharge. That occurs when working conditions become so intolerable that an employee feels like they have no real choice except to resign.
If you believe that you are in the middle of your own quiet firing, don’t react until you decide what step to take next. Getting legal guidance is the best way to protect your future.