Mr. Rodgers walked out in March 2014, without giving notice to go work for a competitor. His contract contained a 6 month notice period and post-termination restrictions. Sunrise did not accept Rodgers’ resignation and instead required him to return to work. Mr. Rogers refused to do so, so Sunrise stopped paying his salary and asked the court for a declaration that Mr. Rodgers was still employed by them and an injunction holding him to the notice period and his restrictive covenants.
Mr. Rodgers argued that the his employer was in fundamental breach of contract by failing to pay him, in which case he was free to join the competitor immediately. However, the High Court upheld the employer’s claims for a declaration and an injunction.
The decision is an important one, because there has been some debate as to whether or not it is necessary to keep paying the employee, in order to keep the contract of employment alive, where the employee refuses to work. Here the Court essentially held that the employee had no right to force the employer to put him on garden leave, if he was not willing to work, then he was not entitled to be paid, but he could still be held to his notice period. From the employer’s perspective the decision is a welcome one as it allows the former employer to potentially protect its client connections, by keeping the employee out of the market either by enforcing notice or garden leave periods. It is usually easier to enforce a notice provision than it is to enforce a post termination restriction.