I Quit – No, Maybe Not

Posted on February 9th, 2011 by Centennial Law in Employment Law, Wrongful Dismissal

When employers hire management consultants to conduct a thorough review of the way a business is operating, employees sometimes start to worry.  Will jobs be lost?  Will the business be reorganized making the work different and, maybe, harder?


A few years ago, a dentist in Richmond, British Columbia called in the management consultants.  (See Maguire v Sutton, 1998 CanLII 6771 [BCSC])  Ms. Maguire, who had always thought of herself as the office manager, decided that changes being proposed diminished her role in the office.  As a result, she handed the dentist a note which read "if your intention was to hurt and destroy me - you've done a good job. ….  I'm resigning immediately.”  The note sounded pretty definite but the dentist responded by saying that the employee should take a few days off and that they would then try to "work things out."  Based on the employee's reaction, however, the next morning the dentist told the members of his staff that the former office manager had resigned.


So, what does the law say about an employee’s resignation?  In the Maguire case, the judge referred to another BC case (Tolman v. Gearmatic Co. Ltd. (1986), 14 CCEL 195 (BCCA)) which states that unless an employer clearly indicates that it has accepted the resignation, then, from a legal point of view, there has been no resignation.  Furthermore, in the Maguire case, the judge quoted with approval the following passage from the Tolman case:


unless the employer acted to its detriment on the expressing of intention to resign, [the employee] remained free to change his mind.


In the result, the court held that Ms. Maguire has been wrongfully dismissal and awarded her damages in an amount equal to her salary for nine months.


The moral of the Maguire case?  Sometimes, an employee’s resignation is not really a resignation.  Employers must act with care.



Article provided by Centennial Law Corp.

The specific facts of any real life situation can have many unforeseen legal implications. As a result, please note that the general information found in the above article should not be treated as legal advice.