In a recent British Columbia decision, the question before the court was whether an employee who stormed out of a meeting saying “I’m out of here!” was expressing an intention to quit, or an intention to go on vacation.
What was at stake for the employee in Balogun v. Deloitte & Touche, LLP, 2011 BCSC 1314 was his entitlement to reasonable notice. If it was determined that he quit, he would not be entitled to any notice, but if he was dismissed, either constructively or formally, then he would be entitled to notice.
The trial judge considered the conversation that transpired prior to Mr. Balogun stating, “I’m out of here!” There was a meeting between Mr. Balogun and his supervisors wherein concerns were expressed about Mr. Balogun’s work performance and attitude. According to the employer witnesses, Mr. Balogun stated that no one in the office was sufficiently qualified to review his work. When he was asked what that meant for the future, he responded with his “I’m out of here!” comment. The Plaintiff testified that he did not remember saying “I’m out of here!” but that if he said anything to that effect, it was in reference to his two-week vacation which had been previously scheduled.
Before he left, the Plaintiff was asked to turn over his keys and computer. The employer’s witnesses testified that this was because he had quit and the employer wanted to secure these items from the Plaintiff before he left the workplace permanently. The employee testified that he thought the employer simply needed his keys and computer while he was on vacation.
Justice N. Smith found that the Plaintiff likely did say something to the effect of “I’m out of here” but that it was ambiguous in the circumstances and could not be taken as clear evidence of an intention to resign. Justice Smith also considered whether the Plaintiff’s departure could be seen as confirmation of an intention to resign, however, given that it was the end of the work day and the Plaintiff was scheduled to take a vacation, his departure from the workplace did not lead to any clear conclusion.
The case law reviewed by Justice Smith confirmed that a resignation must be clear to be effective. A person can resign either through words or conduct, but in either circumstance, there must not be any ambiguity about the employee’s intention. On balance, it was found that the Plaintiff did not express a clear intention to resign, and was therefore entitled to reasonable notice on the basis that the employer had constructively terminated his employment.