People quit or resign from their jobs for a variety of reasons. Some decide to do so after careful consideration of the advantages and disadvantages. For example, some leave their job for another position with a different employer. Others decide to resign on the spur of the moment, and sometimes in the heat of the moment. For instance, a spontaneous declaration like “I quit!” can be the result of a heated disagreement between employee and employer.
However, upon further reflection, an employee may feel that a resignation is not in his or her best interests. The question that arises is whether or not the employee can take back or rescind the resignation. The Ontario Superior Court of Justice recently dealt with this issue in English v. Manulife Financial Corporation.
In this case, the employee tendered her written resignation on September 22, 2016, expressing her intention to retire effective December 31, 2016. After giving the employee time to reflect on whether or not she wanted to retire, her supervisor later accepted the resignation.
The employee’s decision to retire followed the employer’s decision to convert to a new computer system that she did not want to retrain for. When the employer later decided against proceeding with the conversion to the new computer system, the employee decided against retiring and verbally informed her supervisor that she withdrew her resignation.
The employer refused to accept the employee’s withdrawal of her resignation and advised her that her December 31, 2016 retirement date would be honoured. In response, the employee sued for wrongful dismissal, seeking 16 months of pay in lieu of notice.
After a review of the applicable case law, the court dismissed the employee’s claim. In doing so, the court held, “If the evidence establishes that there has been an offer in the form of a notice of resignation and an acceptance of that offer by the employer, basic rules of contract dictate that there is a binding contract between the parties which cannot be resiled from.” The court concluded that although the employer had the option to allow the employee to resile from or withdraw her resignation, the employer was not legally obligated to do so. The employer was entitled to rely on the resignation and to plan for the future accordingly.
For employers, one take-away from this case is, as noted by the court, to advise resigning employees of the acceptance of the resignation and its binding effect, preferably in writing. For employees, the take-away is that a resignation is not to be taken lightly, because an employer is not obliged to continue employment after the employee changes his or her mind about quitting.
This article is intended only to provide general information and does not constitute legal advice. Should you require advice specific to your situation, please feel free to contact me to discuss the matter further.