It is not uncommon for employees to change jobs. When this happens, the question frequently arises regarding whether employees are legally obligated to provide two weeks’ notice before quitting their current job. The short answer is, “No.”
Are there legal requirements to expect or give a two notice?
There are no federal or state laws that require an employee to provide two weeks’ notice to his or her employer before quitting. As we discussed in our previous blog, “The Difference Between the Terms ‘At-Will’ and ‘Right-to-Work’“, most states have adopted the at-will doctrine which is a common-law doctrine that defines most employment relationships. Excluding exceptions, the at-will doctrine gives an employer the right to terminate an employee at any time, without cause or any reason. Likewise, employees are also allowed to leave their employment at any time and without a reason.
In spite of there not being a legal requirement, some employers may have company policies requiring their employees to give two weeks’ notice. Although an employee is generally not required to comply with the policy, many employers penalize employees who do not, where permissible under state law. Such penalties may include forfeiting accrued vacation leave or other accrued benefits. Employers may also encourage employees to give a two weeks’ notice by offering severance pay. Then again, employers are not required to accept a two weeks’ notice and may release employees from their employment immediately, although this may make the employees eligible for unemployment when they would not have been otherwise.
What about employment contracts?
Employment contracts falls under the at-will exceptions. Generally speaking, employment contracts do not secure indefinite employment. However, an employment contract typically includes procedures for terminating the employment contract. This means, if the terms within the contract require two weeks’ notice, the employee has a binding legal obligation to give the notice. There may be circumstances however, when the employer and employee may mutually agree to modify or disregard any notice requirements. Each state may have specific laws related to employment contracts; therefore, to address the legalities of employment separation, it may be necessary to consult an attorney who specializes in employment law.
Reason to give two weeks’ notice?
From an employee’s perspective, giving an employer two weeks’ notice is an act of courtesy. It allows the employer to find a replacement and to make a smoother transition to the new employee. Giving notice may also help preserve a professional relationship between the employer and the former employee. Sometimes, although not required, the act of courtesy is rewarded with a positive employer recommendation in the future. In addition, it encourages a positive professional relationship, which may leave the door opened for future employment if the employer chooses.
In closing, there is a myth that employees are required to give their employers two weeks’ notice before quitting. In fact, it is simply a matter of choice in most instances. Naturally, choosing to give a two weeks’ notice or the most notice practicable under the circumstances is a courtesy employees should consider providing their employers. It is a professional way of terminating an employment relationship that can have significant positive future impact.
Contributed by Suzanne Mathews