In the case of Kirk v. Hockenberry, S.D.Ohio 1:14-CV-713, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11392, an employee who resigned his employment filed multiple federal and state due process claims against his employer. The employee argued that the superintendent coerced his resignation by threatening to terminate him if he did not resign.
The federal court began its analysis by acknowledging that a resignation is not involuntary simply because the employee is given the choice between resigning and termination. Of the four factors that courts consider in determining whether a resignation is voluntary, three weighed in favor of voluntariness as (1) the employee was given a choice whether to resign or be terminated; (2) he clearly understood his options; and (3) he had a reasonable amount of time in which to make his decision. The fourth factor, which measures whether the employee is allowed to select the effective date of termination, weighed against the employer.
This case provides a reminder to employers that, while employers can propose that an employee submit a letter of resignation in lieu of termination, there are certain procedural hurdles that should always be followed in order to ensure that the resignation will withstand judicial scrutiny in the event of future litigation.
Authors: Matthew John Markling and Patrick Vrobel