Worker unhappy with discipline, management quits but then changes mind

You make the call

This instalment of You Make the Call features a worker who quit shortly before her employer had a chance to fire her and then wanted to rescind her resignation.

Delores Rain was an employee for the Paul First Nation (PFN), a First Nations band government based in Wabamun, Alta. She worked in multiple positions in the PFN finance department, including senior accountant.

PFN management had some issues with Rain’s tendency to submit reports to program managers late. The band also received complaints from other employees in the finance department that Rain bullied, intimidated and humiliated them, including telling a co-worker to “shut up.” When managers approached her about these issues, Rain was defensive and confrontational.

On April 4, 2016 PFN gave Rain a letter stating its concerns about the report submissions and her conduct toward staff and management and referring to PFN’s general code of conduct — which stipulated that “every employee has an obligation to conduct themselves [appropriately] in the workplace” and described the type of conduct that was expected. The letter also said that any further disruption of the work environment could result in disciplinary action.

According to Rain, she wasn’t rude to other employees, but rather she was concerned with how things were being done and asked questions — which some people thought meant she was being confrontational. She also said she had a lot of work to do and when people asked for things such as transaction listing and daily bank balances, it took time for her to reply and get them. She also claimed that another staff member made false entries so the band’s accounts were out of balance, so she had to spend a lot of time reconciling them.

However, Rain continued to push the envelope at work, circumventing the normal chain of command by taking her concerns directly to the PFN chief and council and bypassing her supervisor, executive director, and human resources. This led to a second letter on Nov. 30, 2017 warning Rain that “it is no longer acceptable to have chief and council involved in administrative concerns.” The letter stated that it served as a “level 2 warning” in the PFN disciplinary regime and further similar conduct would result in further disciplinary action.

On May 1, 2018 PFN suspended Rain for three days for continued misconduct that included: telling the HR manager to re-code transactions related to new accounts she had created herself; failing to post health payroll reconciliation entries; delaying bank deposit slips; failing to respond to emails in a timely manner; and being nowhere to be found on a few occasions when information was needed from her.

By late June, PFN was at the point where it felt it was time to terminate Rain’s employment. However, before it could move forward, Rain submitted her typed-up letter of resignation to the PFN chief and council, leaving her keys in her desk. Her letter of resignation asked for her to be paid for the three days she was suspended “to offer me a small token of appreciation for my efforts to set me on my way.” Two days later, PFN confirmed its acceptance of the resignation. However, on July 16, Rain emailed HR and others at PFN to say she wanted to rescind her resignation, but PFN didn’t accept.

Rain filed a complaint alleging she was unjustly dismissed through bullying and pressure to quit her job.

Was Rain unjustly dismissed? OR Did she resign from her employment?

IF YOU SAID Rain resigned from her employment, you’re correct. The adjudicator noted that PFN followed a progressive disciplinary approach in dealing with its concerns with Rain, starting with warnings and then a suspension in an attempt to change behaviour with which PFN wasn’t pleased. It also appeared that Rain had a strained relationship with her supervisor and others, but this wasn’t necessarily harassment or bullying — Rain never alleged such behaviour until her unjust dismissal complaint.

The adjudicator found that what Rain alleged was bullying was instead management’s reasonable requests to complete tasks. When this wasn’t done, she was disciplined and given the opportunity to change. There was no indication that Rain was coerced into resigning in the wording and tone of Rain’s letter of resignation or in the fact she left her keys when she left and didn’t return, said the adjudicator.

“The contents of this letter of resignation do not indicate that Ms. Rain was forced to quit,” said the adjudicator. “Therefore, the evidence leads me to conclude that Ms. Rain intended to quit and carried out that intention by taking the time to compose and type a one-and-a-half-page letter of resignation.”

The adjudicator also found that PFN was entitled to accept Rain’s resignation — which it did — and had no obligation to agree to rescind it, especially since she tried to rescind it nearly three weeks later. Rain’s complaint was dismissed.

For more information see:

•  Rain and Paul First Nation, Re (June 24, 2019), Doc YM2707-11546, R. Gunn – Adj. (Can. Lab. Code Adj.).

 

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