Employees Can be Bound by Resignations Mistakenly Given Because of A Disability

Resignations by employees are a contractual matter in California. In other words, the resignation is an offer that the employee can withdraw before the employer accepts it. After it is accepted by the employer, the resignation is final. A recent case determined that the employee’s resignation was final even when the employee’s disability – unbeknownst to the employer at the time the employer accepted the employee’s resignation – caused the employee to resign.

In Featherstone v. Southern California Permanente Medical Group, (Cal. Ct. App., Apr. 19, 2017, No. B275225) 2017 WL 1399709, the employee resigned by telephone, effective immediately, and confirmed her resignation in writing. The employer accepted her resignation. Subsequently, the employee attempted to rescind her resignation and alleged that a temporary disability resulting from her medication caused her to resign. When her employer did not allow her to rescind her resignation, the employee sued for discrimination based on disparate treatment because of her disability. In order to prevail, the employee had to demonstrate that she suffered an adverse employment action. She could not because her resignation was voluntary since the employer did nothing to coerce her resignation. Additionally, the employee was no longer an employee after she resigned, so the employer’s refusal to accept rescission of her resignation was not an adverse employment action. Since she could not prove an adverse employment action, the employer prevailed.

Employers who want to accept an employee’s resignation should act quickly before the employee withdraws the resignation. At will employees generally have no right to rescind voluntary resignations after acceptance unless they have entered other contractual arrangements with their employers permitting rescission. As demonstrated by Featherstone, a disability that allegedly causes the resignation will not undue a resignation either. Employers should keep in mind that the Featherstone employer was unaware of the employee’s disability at the time it accepted the employee’s resignation. The result would have been quite different if the employer had known about the disability before accepting the resignation.

 By Samson R. Elsbernd