Anna Tilton and Andrew Christie were elected Registers of Probate in two of New Hampshire’s counties in 2010. On May 27, 2011, the Legislature enacted a new law that essentially stripped the Registers of responsibility for their jobs and cut their salaries from $55,000 to $100. They each received a letter from the state saying that on the close of work on June 30, 3011, you will be “laid off from your capacity as the administrative authority of the County Probate Court.” Their new position has virtually no duties and they are not allowed access to their old office.
The two Registers filed suit claiming a breach of contract based upon the elective office that they had run for knowing the salary for which they would be paid and sought relief from the court. The Superior Court said that NH Supreme Court has never before dealt with the issue of constructive discharge when an employee’s job responsibilities are all but eliminated but the employee does not resign.
The trial court cited federal decisions around the country as precedent for concluding that the two Registers of Probate were constructively discharged in violation of the law. A hearing on damages has been scheduled.
This is an emerging area of the law and the first case to so hold that if you have your title and a nominal salary, you still have been constructively discharged from your job. If you have been discharged from your job, please give us a call at (603) 288-1403 to discuss or fill our online Contact Form to see if you have a case.