Written on behalf of Peter McSherry
We wrote last week about the fine line around accidental termination. This week’s entry concerns itself with accidental resignation and whether saying you’re quitting is always tantamount to quitting.
A Mistake is Made
Evans v. Avalon Ford Sales was heard in July 2015 by the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador Trial Division. The employee in the case was the Fleet Manager for an auto dealership from December 8, 2997 to June 10, 2010. Sometime prior to his resignation, the Employee processed a car for delivery to a customer via a third party who installed post-purchase features. The car was supposed to come back to the dealership in order to receive payment before being sent to the end-customer, but this did not happen.
The mistake was discovered during an audit and a meeting was held between the Employee and the dealership owner as well as other management. The Employee admitted responsibility to the mistake. During the meeting the Employee recalled the dealership owner raising his voice, using profanity and speaking harshly. The Respondent on the other hand recalled the profanity but maintained the discussion had been professional.
The Employee the proceeded to call the customer, who made payment for the vehicle within 48 hours. On his way to report this to the dealership owner, he passed the office of the comptroller and said “I’m done; I can’t deal with this anymore.” He then went to the owner’s office and asked if he wanted him to resign. It was acknowledged the owner said something along the lines of “No, if I had wanted to fire you I would have done it this morning…We are going to do fleet business with or without you. You need to walk around the building and decide what you want to do.” The Employee went home and came back later that evening, at which time he turned in his keys, phone, and announced he was done.
The Employee tried to call the owner the next morning but was unable to reach him. The owner called the Employee on the Monday following the weekend (four days had passed) and the two agreed to meet that afternoon. The Employee was looking for empathy and reassurance he still had his job. However the meeting did not go well and the Defendant did not accept the Employee’s medial note for having missed time.
The Employee brought a wrongful dismissal claim against the Defendant, stating his resignation was involuntary, and the dealership should have allowed him to return. The Court invoked a test of subjective and objective components as laid out in Beggs v. Westport Foods Ltd., 2011 BCCA 76, which states “A valid and enforceable resignation must be clear and unequivocal — to be clear and unequivocal, the resignation must objectively reflect an intention to resign, or conduct evidencing such an intention… Whether words or action equate to resignation must be viewed contextually — the totality of the surrounding circumstances are relevant to determine whether a reasonable person, viewing the matter objectively, would have understood the employee resigned”
While the Employee established the requirements both subjectively and objectively, the Court went on to state the conclusion does not end at such an analysis. The Court went on to consider the stress the Employee was experiencing before concluding the resignation had not been unequivocal in nature, and even if it had been unequivocal, the Employee could have argued he was entitled to a reasonable period of time to change his mind.
Call the offices of Peter A. McSherry if you have found yourself terminated without reasonable notice or severance. You may have a claim for wrongful dismissal. Contact us online or by phone at 519-821-5465 to schedule your consultation.