Employee told to go home didn’t quit: Board

Employee left work after emotional exchange with manager

A New Brunswick employee did not quit when she left work at her supervisor’s request, the New Brunswick Labour and Employment Board has found.

Beverlie Pirie was working as a cashier at Perth-Andover Valufoods, a grocery store in Perth-Andover, N.B., on July 6, 2007. When she asked another employee to help her bag a customer’s groceries, a supervisor reminded her the store policy was for employees to pack groceries themselves and to only call upon other employees if the customer needed help to take them out of the store. This policy had been given to all employees.

Later that day, Pirie again asked another employee for help packing groceries. The supervisor reminded her again and Pirie complained he was picking on her and she was better off going home. The supervisor told her if she left, she shouldn’t bother coming back. Pirie, who became emotional, left the store and went home. The supervisor later noted he was shocked at her reaction.

Pirie was scheduled to work the next day, but she didn’t come in and Valufoods didn’t try to find out where she was. Two days later, she called the store and the supervisor told her since she quit, she wasn’t scheduled to work any more. Pirie claimed she hadn’t quit, it was he who had sent her home.

New Brunswick’s Director of Employment Standards found Valufoods dismissed Pirie without cause and the board upheld the decision. The board noted Pirie was emotional after the incident on July 6 and she was under the impression she was following the supervisor’s orders by going home. When she contacted the store two days later to find out when she was working, it was clear she hadn’t intended to quit, the board said. It also found Valufoods didn’t terminate her until the telephone call on July 9, since she had still been scheduled to work on July 7.

The board also denied Valufoods’ claim that Pirie had only been an employee for 10 months since its parent company took over the store, according to an agreement it signed that stipulated it was not a successor employer and employees had the choice to be hired by the new owner. However, the board denied this claim, saying it was contrary to the Employment Standards Act and it was a successor employer. Valufoods was ordered to pay Pirie four weeks’ pay in lieu of notice because she was initially hired by the previous owners of the store 20 years earlier, totalling $1,911.82. See Pirie v. Paul, 2009 CarswellNB 52 (N.B. Labour and Employment Bd.).

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