What the CEO wants, the CEO gets. That's normal. The big boss calls the shots. But, a reader sent me this question, and it turns out the answer here is not the normal one for a CEO.

I was recently told I must resign and my CEO asked me how much time I will need to do so. I feel that this is being done due to discrimination on the basis of my ethnicity and sex. However, the evidence I have is fairly minimal.  Would you recommend I send a complaint to HR even though I don't have strong evidence to support the claim?

The CEO can tell you all day long that you must resign and you can simply say no. No one can force you to resign. They can pressure you, yell at you, and threaten to make your life miserable, but they can't force you to resign. They can fire you, though.

And this CEO doesn't want to fire you. He wants you to resign. Why?

That's a question that really needs answering.

Some managers like people to resign because they are cheap and they believe that they can avoid increases in unemployment costs if the person resigned. However, if it's a forced resignation, you are probably still eligible for unemployment

Some managers want you to resign because they believe it protects them from lawsuits. "I didn't fire her! She quit! There's no sex discrimination here!" It doesn't work that way either. You can still sue.

And you should go to Human Resources now. Of course, HR reports into the CEO, so if the CEO says "I want this person gone," you're going to be gone. But, he'll have to fire you to do it.

Good HR will want to know why, and if there's any hint of discrimination, they'll push back. They know that if the reason for wanting you gone is an illegal one, they are putting the company at risk in pressuring you to resign. Bad HR will simply tell you that you have no choice and have to resign.

They are lying. You do not have to resign. The company literally cannot make you. They will have to fire you if they want you gone.

They will say, "it's easier to find a job if you can say you resigned!" While this is true, a recruiter is going to ask why you left your last job without a new one lined up. It's not much of a save. 

It's only to your advantage to resign if you end up better off. Employment Attorney Donna Ballman says you should only resign under the following conditions:

  • You receive severance.
  • They won't challenge unemployment. You're legally entitled to it, but bosses that force you to resign aren't known for their honesty in fighting unemployment.
  • You have an alternative. Ballman says if you have another job lined up or a great idea for your own company then it makes sense. 

Don't forget that you have the power right now. The CEO wants you to do something and he can't make you do it. He can fire you, but he can't force you to resign.

So, yes, talk to HR. Hire an employment attorney. And start a job search. Because regardless of whether you decide to resign or let them fire you, this is a rotten place to work, and it's time to move on.