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Limebite 05/24

When ‘I quit’ doesn’t mean ‘I quit’

Mark CurranMaddison Harrington
Authors (from left):

The importance of employers not acting hastily when an employee resigns in the heat of the moment has been emphasised in the decision of Audrey Campbell v Gold Tiger Logistics Pty Ltd [2024] FWC 1041.

The main issue with which the Fair Work Commission had to grapple was whether the applicant had resigned from her employment after a heated argument with her manager. The parties’ evidence differed on whether the applicant said words to the effect ‘I quit’, (as her employer alleged), or whether she had in fact said ‘This is sh*t’, (as alleged by the applicant).

In the hearing, the applicant conceded that it was possible that her manager may have misheard her, given she has a thick Scottish accent.

FWC Findings

The Commission ultimately preferred the applicant’s evidence, finding that she had not resigned during the discussion.

The Commission also held that, even if the applicant had said the words ‘I quit’ as alleged, this was said in the heat of the moment and not intended. The Commission referred to the following passage from Mr Sumeet Thakur v Assetlink Services Pty Limited [2023] FWC 2550, which considered whether a resignation is effective in the heat of the moment:

“A resignation that is given in the heat of the moment or under extreme pressure may constitute special circumstances, such that a period of time should be allowed to elapse and/ or further enquiries made as to whether the resignation was not intended. If a resignation is not withdrawn within a reasonable time, this may suggest the resignation was intended.”

As the applicant had not resigned, the Commission found she had been dismissed and that:

  • there was no valid reason for the dismissal
  • she was not given an opportunity to respond; and
  • the dismissal was harsh, unjust and unreasonable.

Compensation

The Commission held reinstatement was inappropriate and awarded the applicant the maximum compensation of 26 weeks’ wages (totalling $32,000.00). A finding central to this award was that the applicant was close to retirement, and she intended to work with the respondent until she retired.

Conclusion

Employers who hastily accept an employee’s resignation in the heat of the moment may find themselves on the receiving end of an unfair dismissal application and a subsequent finding that the employee has been dismissed. In this type of situation, the employer should allow a reasonable period of time before acting on the resignation and/or make enquiries of the employee to ascertain if they intended to resign.

This publication constitutes a summary of the information of the subject matter covered. This information is not intended to be nor should it be relied upon as legal or any other type of professional advice. For further information in relation to this subject matter please contact the author.