How Much Notice Is Required When Quitting a Job?

The Employment Standards Act Is Silent About Notice From a Resigning Employee. Cases In the Common Law State That An Employee Must Provide Reasonable Notice.

Understanding Wrongful Resignation Claims Including the Foundational Principles For Assessing Compensation

Lawsuit Document Most people are well aware that when an employer ends an employment relationship, meaning lets the employee go, and fails to provide the legally required advance notice or pay-in-lieu of notice, such is what is called a wrongful dismissal.  Less known is that an employee is also required to provide notice to the employer prior to quitting.  It is likely that the employee requirement to provide notice is less known because the employee requirement comes from the common law, meaning judge made decisions, whereas the Employment Standards Act, 2000, S.O. 2000, Chapter 41 is without any details regarding notice by a resigning employee.

The Law
Notice Period, required from employee

Whereas the Employment Standards Act, 2000 is silent on the notice requirements of an employee, and if the employment contract was also silent, such leaves the question as to what period of notice is therefore required from an employee.  Similar to situations where the notice period requirement imposed upon an employer is that of reasonableness, reasonableness of notice is also required from a resigning employee. This was said within the case of Gagnon & Associates Inc. et. al. v. Jesso et. al., 2016 ONSC 209 which stated:

[37]  It is a well-established principle that an employee is obliged by law to give reasonable notice of the termination of his employment to his employer.  [see Lazarowicz v. Orenda Engines Ltd. (1961) 1960 CanLII 151 (ON CA), O.R. 141 (Ont. C.A.) and Oxman v. Dustbane Enterprises Ltd., [1988] O.J. No. 2067 (Ont. C.A.)].

[38]  Jesso effectively gave no notice.  Although he offered to remain for two weeks conditional upon GA’s agreement of monies owed to him, he indicated that during that two week period he would not undertake any new work.

[39]  The notice required of an employee will be a function of that employee’s position with the employer and the time it would reasonably take the employer to replace the employee or otherwise take steps to adjust to the loss.

This mandate requiring reasonable notice was also stated by the Court of Appeal within the significant case of GasTOPS Ltd. v. Forsyth, 2012 ONCA 134 wherein a notice of two weeks provided by the employee was deemed "totally inadequate" whereas such would leave the employer unable to fulfill existing contracts as well as unable to continue the cultivation of additional business opportunities.  Specifically, the Court of Appeal stated:

[15]  The trial judge found that the notice the personal appellants gave was totally inadequate, that each of them knew it, and that they intended destroy GasTOPS’ technology business.  They were fully aware that these departures would leave the respondent unable to fulfill its existing contracts, or continue to pursue the business opportunities it had been cultivating.

Measure of Damages

In circumstances where an employee fails to provide proper notice the manner of determining damages is based on the loss to the employer that arises from the failure to provide notice rather than arising due to the overall departure of the employee as was said by the Court of Appeal in the case of Bradley v. Carleton Electric Ltd., 1998 CanLII 7140.  Furthermore, per the case of Anderson v. Total Instant Lawns Ltd., 2021 ONSC 2933 the damages as a loss suffered by the business must be more than the savings in unpaid employee salary.  Per Bradley and Anderson, the courts specifically said:

[1]  The key employee in Carleton Electric Limited’s utility division, Bradley, after working for Carleton for 18 months, quit on short notice.  Bradley and Carleton sued one another in breach of contract.  The trial judge found that Bradley should have given Carleton three months’ notice that he was leaving and awarded Carleton $10,000 plus costs.

[2]  All that Carleton was entitled to from Bradley was reasonable notice.  The measure of damages was not therefore the cost of Carleton as a result of Bradley leaving the company, but the cost of Carleton as a result of Bradley’s failure to give notice.

[3]  In our opinion, the trial judge did not err in his assessment of the damages and we would dismiss the appeal with costs to the respondent.

[39]  The Defendant claims damages for wrongful resignation.  In order to make out a claim for wrongful resignation, the employer must demonstrate more than just that the unexpected departure inconvenienced the company,  The employer must show that it suffered losses, or costs in excess of what it saved by not paying the employee’s salary during the notice period.

Summary Comment

Perhaps for security reasons, among other things, receiving notice from a resigning employee usually results in waiver of the notice by the employer (and thus the pay-in-lieu obligations of the employer becoming due); however, where the employer is injured by the failure of notice from the employee, the employer may deserve compensation for damages arising from the failure of notice.  As to how to calculate what would be reasonable within a particular situation, such appears very difficult to predict and will be governed by the circumstances involved within each unique case.

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