You Can’t Fire Me, I Quit! The Dangers of Taking Termination Into Your Own Hands

Sometimes tensions run high when employment relationships begin to break down, other times you realize it is simply just time to move on. Either way, those six very elusive words can have interesting effects on termination results. What I want to emphasize today is that things are not always what they appear to be.

The Cautionary Tale…

Mark worked in an office doing typical work-related things under his general manager Joanne. Mark and Joanne did not have a great relationship in the past. On Monday, Joanne requested that Mark see her at the end of his shift at 2:3O. Mark entered Joanne’s reception area and came to the inner office door, walked through it, and stood by it, his hands on his hips in an aggressive manner. Seeing this behavior she told Mark, “Do you think I have time to go around and tell employees what to do?” Mark became aggressive and Joanne told him to please leave his office to which Mark replied, “you can’t fire me, I quit!”

Saying ‘I Quit’ may not mean you did.

In the most recent example of this principle in Nunes & Murphy Restaurants Inc. v. Kelly, released March 29, 2016, an employee became very angry that she did not receive a certain set of training within the company. In her anger she shouted the equivalent of an ‘I quit’ statement.

Getting fired and resigning typically have different implications in labour and employment law. Knowing how we determine the status of the event is critical. When an employee decides to quit there must be a subjective and objective element to the event. Put simply, the employee must consciously decide to quit their job and then actively take a step to sever the employment relationship. In a sense, these are prevention measures that protect an employee from themselves. The decision found that this employee did not actually intend to quit. Not only was she emotionally distressed and uttered the words in anger, questioning the subjective element, but returned to work after her break thinking she would continue with her shift. Clearly declarations are not the end-all be-all of leaving one’s job.

The lesson here is that sometimes words can be taken out of context when in fact they have no weight. Don’t let anyone tell you they do, just because an employer is looking to avoid a payout.

When you really do quit, make sure you understand the consequences.

Moving away from case decisions and into the realm of employment statutes, we can see big implications of resigning versus being terminated. So in the event that the rush subsides and you find that there is a conscious decision to part ways, termination may be a better route than resigning:

Notice and Severance Pay. Did you know that as an employee you are also required to give notice to your employer when you resign? If you quit you could potentially forgo compensation that is owed to you at the end of your tenure such as vacation pay, notice or pay in lieu, and severance pay.

Employment Insurance. Some workers are under the impression that they can always default on Employment Insurance to get them through their dry-spell between jobs. However, this may not always be the case. One of the requirements of being eligible for EI is that you lost your employment through no fault of your own. While this is just one of many criteria needed to be eligible, it is necessary to prove, which can be far more difficult when you initiated the termination.

Constructive Dismissal. A constructive dismissal may occur when an employer makes a significant change to a fundamental term or condition of an employee’s employment without the employee’s actual or implied consent. Sometimes when this happens an employee may feel compelled to leave the workplace. Since this was not in effect voluntary it may be considered a termination. Be careful not to misconstrue a decision to leave with a feeling of being forced out of your job.

References and Relationships. In any industry, reputation is currency. Amidst all technical skills and degrees, your relationships and networks are the things that keep you alive and relevant. Industries are small employment bubbles where everyone knows one another. Give thought to how your employment relationship will sustain itself post employment and how to make the most of an unfortunate or perhaps even fortunate situation. Leave on good terms if you can, and maintain those relationships. If you don’t find the right fit where you’re at, maybe another company is a better fit. Just don’t forget to stop off at the boss’s office for a letter of reference on your way out.

Termination Negotiation. One of the most unfortunate things about resignations is that they are not negotiated. Understandably, it is odd to think about a resignation the way you would a job interview, but in some situations you can negotiate a deal much like you negotiate a salary when you first get hired. Leaving on good terms does not only mean a good reference letter, but it also means negotiating your payout package. Many employers pay above the statutory minimum and can maneuver sometimes based on your employment relationship. Much like base salaries and benefits, employee’s exiting an organization can also negotiate for added benefits like career coaching or counseling sessions. These prove very valuable when transitioning back into the labour force.

The Golden Rule

Parting ways in an employment relationship is never an easy task. It is fraught with emotional and financial complications that inevitably impact our daily lives. Initiating a resignation means potentially giving up many things that could help your transition be that much smoother. Whether through compensation, networking or business relationships, terminations should be handled with care and be well thought out before acting upon.

Consult your local Employment Lawyer for advice if you want to inquire more.
See here and here for eligibility requirements for Employment Insurance.

*For your particular area, refer to your specific provincial government website.

**Special considerations may affect relationship status, such as federally regulated workers.

***The above is Information regarding Labour and Employment Issues and is not to be considered advice or instructions pertaining to individual or specific employment situations.

About the Author:

Akiva Stern

Akiva Stern is Sole Proprietor of HR AID. HR AID is an employment consulting company devoted to helping employees and small business owners easily access employment and labour information as well as helping to resolve their employment issues. You can visit them at