Worker quits in the heat of the moment: Can he change his mind?

Welder Jim Gordon's problems were too numerous to list on one sheet of paper. He drank too much, smoked too much, and partied too much.
By Raymond Dreyfack November 1, 1998

Welder Jim Gordon’s problems were too numerous to list on one sheet of paper. He drank too much, smoked too much, and partied too much. Gordon had problems at home, problems with his kids, problems with coworkers, and problems with his boss, Maintenance Supervisor Jeff Cousins.

Most pressing of all was his marriage, which seemed to be falling apart. His wife had threatened to walk out in the past, but had never followed through. One day when Gordon returned from work, the house was empty. Betty and his two kids were gone. No note. No nothing.

Gordon went berserk. He smashed a few dishes and other items. This outbreak was followed by a bout with depression and a sleepless night. Next day, he showed up for work bleary eyed.

Cousins, who was too busy to notice the change in Gordon’s appearance and state of mind, and had little use for him to begin with, gave the welder an assignment he didn’t like. Gordon started arguing with him.

“I get all the garbage work,” he complained.

Patience exhausted, Cousins snapped, “I have no time for you this morning. Either get to work, or punch out.”

“Forget it! I quit!”

Cousins grinned. “Hey, that’s the best news I heard all week.”

The next day, Gordon showed up and apologized to Cousins. “I wasn’t myself yesterday,” he said. “I didn’t mean it when I quit.” He explained about his wife walking out.

“I’m sorry about your trouble,” Cousins said. “But a quit’s a quit. I already assigned someone else to your job.”

“You never gave me a chance.” Gordon threatened to sue.

Question : Can Cousins make Gordon’s termination stick?

Ingram’s ruling: “Reinstate him,” Plant Engineer Sid Ingram instructed Cousins when he heard the facts of the case. “While it is ordinarily true that a quit is a quit, this case is out of the ordinary. For an employee to make a meaningful decision about so critical a matter he must be mentally capable and reasonably rational to do so. Given the circumstances, and Gordon’s state of mind at the time, I would say he deserves another chance.”