It is a well-established law that an outburst from a frustrated employee such as, “I won’t take it anymore. I quit”, does not amount to a resignation from employment. It is a reaction to some provocation, said in the heat of the moment. It is not a considered career-ending decision carefully made by an employee who understands the consequences of the decision that she is making. That is why courts demand that a resignation, to be enforceable, be in writing, signed and dated by the employee who understands what she is doing and is doing so free of duress and not just reacting to some provocation in the heat of the moment.
The courts consider such a career-ending decision to require evidence of thought and even careful consideration. That is why such outbursts such as, “That’s it, I quit” are not normally enforceable without a follow-up letter of resignation.
Most recently the Ontario Court of Appeal has ruled that a written, dated and signed resignation by an employee is not enforceable. It appears, on the facts, that this resignation, prior to retirement, was initiated in the belief by the resigning employee, that a new computer system was to be implemented by the employer which the employee believed would be too difficult for her to learn to manage. Shortly after she submitted her resignation the employer decided not to implement the new computer system after all. The employee, on learning of the change of plan, wished to withdraw her resignation.
The court found that her formal resignation was based on her understanding of a set of facts which subsequently were reversed. Accordingly, she was permitted to withdraw her resignation and resume her employment.
Brian A. Grosman, Q.C., has spent the last 30 years advising corporate employers and executive employees on their obligations and rights. His book Fire Power (Penguin) is a best seller and he has written a number of other books, including The Executive Firing Line and Pink Slip Chronicles. Brian is a former Professor of Law at McGill University, and The University of Saskatchewan, where he chaired the Law Reform Commission of that province. Brian has been selected by his peers to be included in the National Post’s “Best Lawyers In Canada” for the last six years. He and his wife Tobi live in Stirling, Ontario, with their two Labrador Retrievers.
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