Last year, I wrote about an Ontario Superior Court of Justice decision that dealt with the issue as to whether or not an employee can rescind a resignation. A link to that decision can be found here. The Court of Appeal recently reversed that lower court decision in English v. Manulife Financial Corporation. The following are the facts of this case.

On September 22, 2016, the employee, Ms. English, tendered her written resignation, expressing her intention to retire effective December 31, 2016.  Her decision to retire followed Manulife’s decision to convert to a new computer system that she did not want to retrain for. After giving Ms. English time to reflect on whether or not she wanted to retire, her supervisor later accepted the resignation.

When Manulife later opted not to proceed with the conversion to the new computer system, Ms. English decided against retiring and verbally informed her supervisor that she withdrew her resignation. Manulife refused to accept Ms. English’s withdrawal of her resignation and advised that her December 31, 2016 retirement date would be honoured instead.

Ms. English sued for wrongful dismissal, a claim that was ultimately dismissed on the basis that the evidence established that Ms. English’s offer of a notice of resignation and an acceptance of that offer by Manulife constituted a binding contract that could not be resiled from. As I previously wrote, 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.

On appeal, the Court of Appeal held that lower court erred in concluding that Ms. English had truly resigned on September 22, 2016. The basis for her resignation was the contemplated computer conversion. At the time of her resignation, her supervisor advised her that she could change her mind. Once the cancellation of the conversion was announced, the basis for Ms. English’s resignation no longer existed and Manulife was bound by the supervisor’s promise that Ms. English could change her mind, which she did. In turn, Manulife’s refusal to continue Ms. English’s employment amounted to a wrongful dismissal.

In my previous article, I wrote 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. While this remains true, this case shows that an employee has not truly quit unless the resignation is clear and unequivocal, without any conditions attached.

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.