Some employers and employees may be surprised to learn that an employee who tells an employer that they are quitting their job, may not always, in the eyes of the law, be seen as actually having quit. An employee, for example, who purports to quit their job in the heat of an argument with their employer, may be able to retract that statement and actually keep their job. This was the case with a mill employee who had a heated argument with his employer that ended with the employee stating that he quit and handing over operation of the mill to his assistant. The employee went so far as to tell the chairman of the board that he was fed up and that they would have to get someone else to run the mill. Once the employee left the mill premises, the board held an emergency meeting to accept his resignation.
The British Columbia Court in that case found that the employee’s apparent resignation was made in a “spontaneous outburst of anger . . . and . . .was accepted without proper deliberation by the directors . . . “ The Court was of the view that the board should have waited until tempers had cooled down and then met with the employee to discuss the situation. Having not done this, the Court felt that the board acted too “hastily”.
In that case, even though the employee stated that he was quitting and handed control of the mill over to someone else in the heat of a disagreement with his employer, it was the emotional context of the statement that led the Court to determine that the employee did not in fact have the intent to resign.
The above is only one of several examples of circumstances in British Columbia where an employee appeared to the employer to have quit their job, only to have the employee later argue that they had not in fact quit and still intended to keep working at their job. It is a reminder to employers and employees alike that it is often necessary to take a step back and assess the circumstances objectively in order to determine if the employee really intended to quit their job. Proceeding on the wrong assumption could have disastrous consequences for both parties.
The Courts in British Columbia have provided guidance on what requirements must be met before an employee will be found to have quit their job. If you are faced with a situation where this issue is uncertain, it is best to seek legal advice to help ensure a more informed decision is made at the early stages in order to avoid problems and surprise down the road.
Article written by Greg Pratch