It’s the conduct, not the words, that count

Employee said she quit, but her actions demonstrated otherwise: Federal Court

The Federal Court has upheld an adjudicator’s ruling that an employee’s conduct, in the days after she told her boss she quit, demonstrated she did not have a genuine intention to resign.

Brenda Baldrey was a model customer service representative for H & R Transport Ltd. for six years. On Jan. 28, 2000, shortly after a Friday meeting started, Baldrey said she “couldn’t take it any more” and that she “quit.” Her supervisor followed her out of the room and asked her to return, but she declined.

She left without clearing out her desk or returning her keys. She didn’t contact her employer until the following Wednesday. But on Monday she got a note from her doctor which read: “Please excuse Brenda from work from Jan. 28 due to medical reasons until March 1.”

Baldrey contacted her supervisor on Wednesday to tell him she had the note. She asked that a record of employment (ROE) be prepared so she could apply for sick benefits. When it was picked up the ROE said she had “abandoned her position.” Two weeks later she received a final paycheque which included her accumulated vacation pay. She did not complain about her apparent termination, but did call the payroll clerk to object to the amount of vacation pay she had received.

The company claimed Baldrey’s not contacting the office or returning to work on Monday or Tuesday, after having said she quit the Friday before, were consistent with her expressed intention to resign.

This was supported by her not objecting to the statement in the ROE that she abandoned her position and her telephoning to complain about the amount of vacation pay rather than at having her sick leave cancelled.

The adjudicator ruled Baldrey had met her burden of proving, by a balance of probabilities, she had not resigned. She was emotionally overwrought due to illness when she quit and only if subsequent conduct bore out her stated intention could it be viewed as her resigning.

Had Baldrey intended to resign she would not have sought a doctor’s note seeking sick leave. She acted as if still employed by the company and on her doctor’s orders to take a sick leave, it ruled. By Wednesday the employer could no longer reasonably believe she intended to sever her relationship with her company.

There was some validity to the company’s argument that when she complained about her vacation pay it indicated she had intended to resign. But immediately afterward she contacted Federal Labour Relations to complain she’d been unjustly dismissed.

This was timely and unequivocal conduct inconsistent with a genuine intention to resign, it ruled. There was no evidence Baldrey had seen the “abandoned her position” comment on the ROE, so no inference can be drawn about her failure to complain about it.

The adjudicator’s decision was upheld by the Federal Court and again by the Federal Court of Appeal. Its rulings were duly considered and fully supported by the evidence, the courts decided.

For more information see:

H & R Transport Ltd. v. Baldrey, 2004 CarswellNat 5237, 2004 CarswellNat 2805, 2004 CF 1146, 2004 FC 1146 (F.C.)

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