On Refusing To Reinstate An Employee After Resignation

resignation and wrongful terminationGenerally,  post-termination or post-resignation actions by employers have very little or no legal relevance to any legal case.  Further, unlike being terminated, refusing to reinstate an employee after he resigns is not considered an adverse employment action in the context of California discrimination laws,. This is illustrated by a recent case Featherstone v Southern Cal. Permanente Med. Grp., (2017). In that case, the employee claimed that she resigned due to her temporary disability of having an “altered mental state.” During that time she engaged in a number of irrational behaviors. Featherstone first gave oral notice that she was quitting to her manager on the phone, and then confirmed her resignation in writing a few days later. When Feathersone emerged from her altered mental state, she wanted to rescind her resignation, but the employer refused to allow her to do so. Although the claimant was eligible for rehire, she never reapplied for her position.

Featherstone sued her former employer for wrongful termination based on disability discrimination. She claimed that the employer discriminated against her based on her medical condition by not allowing her to return to work after she resigned. The trial court dismissed the case, and the court of appeal affirmed that decision, concluding that the refusal to allow a former employee to rescind resignation is not an adverse employment action. The court further held that the employer in that case was not contractually obligated to allow the rescission of an at-will employee’s resignation.

This holding makes a lot of sense in several respects. Most importantly – it’s a reminder than generally what the employer does after the employer / employee relationship ended cannot be used to make a claim for wrongful termination. This means that many workers should think twice before quitting their job, because once you resign, the employer in most cases does not have to take you back, regardless of the reasons for resignation.