Take this job and keep it

Telling your boss to take their job and shove it sure may be satisfying in the heat of the moment but it likely comes with unexpected consequences.

In fact, you may be breaching the contractual or implied contractual obligations to your employer that result in legal ramifications impacting your future.

There have been many different iterations of employees finding creative ways to quit their jobs in an effort to exact some vengeance for what they considered unfair workplace treatment.

Joey DeFrancesco, for example, became an internet sensation in 2011 when he took a marching band with him to announce he was quitting his hotel job.

“I hated them, and they hated me,” he told Huffington Post. “It was this big drawn-out war we were having with management ... I knew I had to get one last shot at them.”

He may have literally gone out on a high note, but DeFrancesco was also taking the chance of alienating himself with potential employers who might be hesitant to hire someone who could potentially embarrass them as he had done with his former boss.

There is also the flight attendant who suddenly quit after an altercation with a passenger in 2010.

The man uttered a string of expletives over the plane’s intercom, opened the emergency evacuation chute and grabbed two cans of beer from the beverage cart before sliding to the tarmac.

His “resignation” came with some harsh repercussions. He was later arrested for criminal mischief and reckless endangerment and had to pay the airline approximately $10,000 to replace the emergency chute. He eventually pleaded guilty in an arrangement that required him to undergo counseling and substance-abuse treatment to avoid a jail term.

While it can be tempting to quit in a fit of rage, it is strategically, and critically, prudent to consider not only when you are planning to resign, but how much advance notice of your intended resignation you plan to provide.

There is no prescribed notice period for quitting a job under Ontario’s Employment Standards Act. However, a set notice of resignation will likely be included in an employment agreement.

Instances where someone dresses in a banana suit and hires a mariachi band to announce that they are quitting may be hilarious. But there is also the practical aspect of the employment agreement, and it could be problematic depending on what is in that contract. Leaving immediately puts you at risk of breach of contract.

And while it doesn’t happen very often, an employer can sue for damages if a worker quits without notice of resignation. There was a recent report of two such lawsuits in British Columbia. Tribunals in both cases ruled against the employers because they were unable to prove they had suffered any real monetary damages.

Being able to demonstrate that there are actual quantifiable losses resulting from such a breach can be challenging. Still, it is possible. Employers could establish damages if they were forced to hire a third-party recruiting agency to take up the slack until they are able to  replace the worker who left. They might also be able to claim the worker left abruptly during a major project, leaving them shorthanded and necessitating overtime pay to other employees.

There are also certain industries, such as banking, where the employer could claim that by in addition to leaving without giving adequate notice the employee did so in order to breach other obligations such as ongoing obligation of confidentiality or non-solicitation.

Of course, it may not be in a company’s best interest to sue an employee for quitting early. It can have a bit of a chilling effect for potential employees who may not want to work for someone if there is a risk that they might get sued for failing to give reasonable notice.

Further, never resign before a major bonus or commission is due. Not surprisingly, employers will be reluctant to pay those out and will look for any legal excuse possible to avoid doing so if you suddenly gather your belongings, leave a “sorry for your loss” cake in the break room, then leave.

Ellen Low has been working exclusively in employment and human rights for over a decade. She obtained her law degree from the University of Ottawa, articled at Gowlings and practised as a partner with a boutique Toronto employment law firm and founded her own firm, Ellen Low & Co. Employment Law, in 2018. 

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