The law behind “I quit”

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There’s more to leaving a job than saying “I quit” and packing your stuff into a cardboard box. Before resigning from your employment, you should consult a lawyer to determine what your legal rights and obligations are – and what rights or compensation you might be giving up by leaving.

Do I have to give notice to my employer before I quit?

In British Columbia, there’s nothing in the Employment Standards Act requiring you to give your employer notice before you quit your job. That said, you may have something in your employment contract that obligates you to provide notice. Depending on your length of service, salary, and the time it would take for your employer to replace you, you may also owe your employer more than the two weeks’ notice many employees provide to their employers before leaving.

Giving your boss plenty of notice will also help protect your professional reputation and make it more likely they’ll give you a good reference down the road.

How much notice is enough notice?

The short answer is “it depends.” Sometimes it’s spelled out in your employment contract. Otherwise, the notice you should provide your employer can vary greatly depending on your role and responsibilities, how long you’ve been there, and how hard it will be for your employer to find a suitable replacement. An executive or employee in a key position will be expected to provide far more notice than a rank-and-file employee!

If I say that I’m resigning on a specific day, can my employer fire me before that?

If you’re careful to say that you’re resigning on a certain date, your employer is not entitled to fire you earlier than that. You can argue that you were terminated without cause and are owed severance if your employer does so. Depending on your employment contract, you may be entitled to all the notice you would have otherwise received (not just to the day that you would have left otherwise). Basically, the courts see resignation with terms as an offer to resign, and the employer must accept the offer as stated. If they don’t, it’s just like they’re firing you for no reason.

Do I still get termination pay, severance, EI?

Normally, the answer is no. Employees who quit their job voluntarily means they ended the employment relationship rather than the company. This means the quitting employee isn’t entitled to termination pay under employment standards legislation, pay in lieu of notice at common law, or even employment insurance.

That said, there are exceptions to this rule. For instance, if the employee can demonstrate that they had no choice but to leave because of something like harassment, a demotion, or unsafe work, they might be able to argue that they were “constructively dismissed.” If this is the case, such an employee may be owed compensation as though the employer had terminated their employment. To learn more about constructive dismissal, click here.

Can I take back my resignation?

Heated resignations in the workplace are common. An employee gets frustrated at something their boss says one afternoon, for example, yells “I quit,” and storms out of the office.

The law recognizes that decisions that are made when the employee is overly emotional often shouldn’t be enforced. Courts have, after the fact, granted a “cooling-off period” to allow employees to rethink their decision – even if the employer has already accepted the resignation.

However, whether a court sees an employee’s resignation as something that should stick in situations like this depends on a number of things, including how long the employee’s been with the company and whether the employer has already tried to fill the employee’s position.

Do I have any obligations to the employer once I’m gone?

After you quit, you can still have obligations to your former employer. One important source of these obligations is often the employment contract. For example, there might be something in your contract that says you can’t talk to the employer’s customers for a period of time, or something that says that you’re not even allowed to compete in the same business!

Before resigning, it’s a good idea to have a lawyer review your employment contract to see if you have any obligations towards your employer, and, if there are any restrictions in your employment contract, whether your employer could use them against you and get them enforced by a court.

DISCLAIMER: The content of this article, and this website generally, is not intended as legal advice and cannot be relied upon as legal advice.  To provide legal advice on your problem, a lawyer must first understand your specific situation.

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