Ruth Featherstone, an at-will employee with Southern California Permanente Medical Group (SCPMG), took an approved medical leave to treat a sinus condition. Seven days after she returned to work, Featherstone called her supervisor and resigned. After the conversation, the supervisor e-mailed Featherstone to confirm her resignation in writing and the separation began to be processed immediately. He did not receive a response. The day after her resignation, Featherstone was hospitalized due to behavioral issues. Three days later, she was released from the hospital and confirmed her resignation in writing.
A few days after she confirmed her resignation in writing, Featherstone asked SCPMG to rescind her resignation on the grounds that she was suffering from an altered mental state as a result of her medication when she resigned. SCPMG invited Featherstone to submit any documents she believed supported her position that her resignation was the result of an adverse reaction to medication, which she did. Ultimately, SCPMG determined that the resignation was proper and there was no compelling reason to rescind it.
Featherstone sued SCPMG on the grounds that its refusal to rescind her resignation was a discriminatory act under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). Summary Judgment was granted for SCPMG and Featherstone appealed.
On appeal, the Second District Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court ruling for two principal reasons. First, SCPMG’s refusal to allow Featherstone to rescind her resignation was not an adverse employment action under the FEHA. Specifically, the Court determined that “refusing to allow a former employee to rescind a voluntary discharge – that is, resignation free of employer coercion or misconduct – is not an adverse employment action. Second, Featherstone failed to raise a triable issue of fact as to whether the SCPMG employees who accepted and promptly processed her resignation knew of her alleged temporary disability at the time they took those actions.
This decision is good news for employers who are often presented with inconsistent communications from their employees. It also underscores that employee resignations should be processed expeditiously. For additional information, see Ruth Featherstone v. Southern California Permanente Medical Group, decided April 19, 2017, or contact Mitch Wrosch (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have questions regarding this ruling.