I Quit(ish)! When a Resignation Is a Termination

When is a resignation not a resignation? Recently, the Ontario Superior Court dealt with a case where an employee cleaned out her desk, didn’t return to work but then took the position that she hadn’t quit after all.

Finding that she didn’t quit, the Court re-iterated that an employee’s resignation must be “clear and unequivocal.” In this case, the employee had sent an e-mail informing her employer that she had packed up her desk, but would be keeping her company cell phone, and that the employer could call her the following day to discuss. This e-mail was sent following an upsetting exchange between the employee and management, and the employee was under significant pressure at the time to manage an overwhelming workload.

Given the context, the Court found that the employee’s actions were not a “clear and unequivocal statement of an intention to resign”, finding instead that she had been dismissed, and awarded her damages representing the wages owed to her under her employment contract.

As this case demonstrates, courts are inclined to keenly review the facts giving rise to an alleged resignation. When the surrounding context suggests that the employee’s actions were an impulsive outburst brought on by stress, a court may have a difficult time finding that the employee truly had an intention to quit.

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