How is the employment start date affected when an employee resigns, but then continues working under a new employment agreement for the same employer? The Ontario Court of Appeal has recently released two decisions that discuss how an employee resigning and then continuing to work affects the start date of their employment. The decisions show that the specific facts of the resignation and re-hire will determine whether an individual will be limited by the terms and conditions of their new employment agreement.

In Ariss v. NORR Limited Architects & Engineers, 2019 ONCA 449, the employee had agreed to waive his previous years of service to make the change from full-time to part-time hours. The Court determined that the employee was not bound by the new employment agreement because he had not intended to resign. By contrast, in Theberge-Lindsay v. 3395022 Canada Inc. (Kutcher Dentistry Professional Corporation), 2019 ONCA 469, the Court determined that an employee who resigned and then withdrew her resignation before her last day of work was bound by her new employment agreement.

Ariss v. NORR Limited Architects & Engineers, 2019 ONCA 449

In 1986, the employee started full-time employment as an architect. When the business was sold, the employee was notified that his employment would be terminated because of the sale. He signed a new offer of employment, which did not contain any termination provisions. In 2013, the employee wanted to reduce to part-time hours. The employer agreed, but only if the employee resigned and entered into a new employment agreement, where the employee specifically agreed to waive his previous years of service. The employer told him that these terms were non-negotiable. The employee agreed to these terms and changed to part-time employment.

Three years later, in 2016, the employee was dismissed without cause from his employment. The employer relied on the 2013 employment agreement and limited the employee to his minimum statutory entitlements, as though the employee had started his employment in 2013.

The motion judge determined that the employee had not waived his years of service. On appeal, the Ontario Court of Appeal found that the 2013 agreement to waive the employee’s previous service was in violation of the Employment Standards Act, because neither the employer or employee actually intended the employee to resign at the time. The Court found the agreement was constructed to circumvent statutory notice and severance based on the employee’s actual years of service.

Theberge-Lindsay v. 3395022 Canada Inc. (Kutcher Dentistry Professional Corporation), 2019 ONCA 469

In 1993, the employee started her employment as a dental hygienist. Over the course of her employment, she was required to sign a series of employment agreements. In 2005, the employee gave her notice of resignation, but then she changed her mind before her last day of work. Her employer agreed to let the employee stay but required her to sign a new contract. When the employee was terminated without cause in December 2012, the employer relied on the newest employment agreement to limit her statutory entitlement to one year of service.

The trial judge found that the employee’s employment had continued uninterrupted since 1993, and she was not limited to one year of service. The trial judge found that none of the three employment contracts signed by the employee during her employment were enforceable because they lacked consideration. Therefore, the trial judge determined that the employee was wrongfully dismissed and assessed her damages at 15 months’ notice.

On appeal, the employer argued that the trial judge erred in failing to take account of the employee’s 2005 resignation. The Court of Appeal held that the employee’s resignation, even though it was rescinded, opened the door to the employer instituting a new contract. Even though the employee never stopped working, there was effectively a resignation and a re-hiring, which broke the employee’s length of service. The Court determined a valid contract had been formed after the employee’s resignation because the employee offered to be employed again and the employer accepted her offer. The employee was therefore limited to the minimum statutory entitlements under the Employment Standards Act as though she had started her service after her resignation.

Commentary

These two decisions from the Ontario Court of Appeal, highlight that the circumstances of the resignation and the subsequent re-hire will be crucial to determining an employee’s start date. If neither the employee nor the employer intends for the employee to resign, and the new employment agreement is just a legal fiction, then the courts will likely find that employee’s previous years of service count when determining their reasonable notice entitlements. However, if the employee did intend to resign, but changes their mind, then the employer may be entitled to ask the employee to sign a new employment agreement, waiving the employee’s previous years of service.

[This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice, which cannot be given without consideration of your individual circumstances.]