Employee’s resignation notice was equivocal and she was entitled to withdraw it

Labour and Employment Law - Employment Law - Termination and Dismissal

Employee had been working as Senior Customer Relationship Manager for employer when it was acquired by defendant. Upon learning that defendant was implementing new computer system employee contemplated early retirement to eliminate need to train on new system near end of her career. Employee gave supervisor letter indicating she would retire and supervisor said she could change her mind. Few weeks later, defendant announced it was no longer converting to new system and employee decided to stay. Defendant took position that employee had retired. Employee’s action for wrongful dismissal was dismissed following motion for summary judgment. Motion judge found that if he was wrong about dismissal appropriate notice period was 12 months. Employee appealed. Appeal allowed. Employee was granted judgment for 12 months’ salary in lieu of notice. Judge’s conclusion that employee’s letter constituted clear and unequivocal resignation was error. Employee’s resignation notice was equivocal given circumstances she presented and she was entitled to withdraw it. Employee’s equivocation was condoned by defendant through actions of supervisor. When defendant cancelled computer conversion employee moved promptly to tell supervisor that she was not going to retire and supervisor acknowledged her decision and did not tell her it was problem. Defendant was bound by supervisor’s promise to employee that she could change her mind. Since employee did not in fact resign, her termination was wrongful dismissal.

English v. Manulife Financial Corporation (2019), 2019 CarswellOnt 12412, 2019 ONCA 612, M.L. Benotto J.A., P. Lauwers J.A., and David Brown J.A. (Ont. C.A.); reversed (2018), 2018 CarswellOnt 14425, 2018 ONSC 5135, M.L. Edwards J. (Ont. S.C.J.).

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