No, employees are not legally required to give their employers 2 weeks of notice – or any notice – before quitting. However, it may be contractually required by the employment agreement.
Depending on the worker’s circumstances, though, providing 2 weeks of notice may be a good idea. Workers who quit without notice will strain the professional relationship and are unlikely to get a good recommendation.
Am I legally required to provide two weeks’ notice before quitting?
No. There is no state or federal law that requires workers to provide their employers with 2 weeks of notice before quitting or resigning.
In fact, the vast majority of workers are considered at-will employees. Nearly all states presume that an employment relationship is at-will. In an at-will employment relationship, the job can be terminated at any time, and for any legal reason. This means that both the current employer and the employee have the power to terminate the relationship.
However, not all workers are at-will employees. Generally, a worker is not in an at-will employment relationship if he or she has an employment contract that explicitly states otherwise. If there is such a contract, and the contract requires notice before the employee quits, then the worker has to comply with the requirement before handing in his or her resignation letter.
What if the employment contract says that I have to?
Workers may be contractually obligated to provide notice before quitting if:
- their employment contract expressly says that the employment relationship is not at-will, and
- the contract states how much advance notice is required before leaving the job.
This is most often the case if the current job is for a certain period of time.
Company policies regarding notice requirements may also be found in the employee handbook or in other human resources materials. However, just because the employer claims that the worker must provide advance notice does not necessarily mean that there is a binding legal requirement. Many employers make this claim to deter sudden resignations, even though they know that it is not binding. Talking to a lawyer who is well versed in employment law can help workers determine whether they have a legal obligation to provide advance notice of resignation.
Not following a binding notice period requirement in the contract can amount to a breach of contract. If the employment agreement specifies the penalties for a breach, the worker may face these penalties.
Are there any repercussions of quitting without notice?
If the employment relationship is at-will, then there are no legal consequences of quitting a job without notice. However, workers who quit without notifying their employer beforehand may suffer harm to their reputation and professional future for not providing the professional courtesy of an advance notice letter that would have given the employer time to make a smooth transition to the work environment.
Quitting without warning leaves a bad impression with the now-former employer. They are extremely unlikely to rehire someone who has quit without warning, before. They may also be less likely to provide a good recommendation or reference for the departing worker when he or she looks for a new job. They may also mention the lack of notice to any subsequent or potential employer who calls concerning the worker’s pending job application. This can undermine the worker’s professional future, as potential employers try to avoid the difficult situations caused by an employee’s sudden departure.
It can also strain any personal or professional relationships that the departing worker has made with his or her coworkers. When someone quits without warning, the workplace has to absorb his or her duties until a replacement can be found and trained. This can take weeks or even months. Coworkers and team members who have to fill in for the departing employee may think less of them, even if they were on good terms before.
Whether these forms of personal and reputational harm are worth it will depend on the specific worker and his or her circumstances. In some cases, better opportunities for future employment come up and prevent the worker from providing the full two weeks of notice. In other cases, the employee’s deteriorating mental health or impending layoffs make it necessary to leave quickly, or reduce the need to maintain a good relationship with the employer.
However, if the employment is not at-will, any contractual penalties for breaching the contract can be imposed. Workers may lose income that they have not yet earned, such as future commissions or bonuses.
When will I receive my final paycheck?
Workers who hand in a letter of resignation without warning are still entitled to receive their final paycheck. State law governs when the last paycheck has to be paid. Generally, employers have to provide it soon after the termination of employment, and are not allowed to delay it past the normal payday.
In California, for example, workers who quit without notice are entitled to their final wages within 72 hours of their last day. They can request their employer to send the paycheck to a designated address, and the employer has to mail it within 72 hours.1
Workers who provide at least 72 hours of notice before quitting are entitled to receive their final paycheck when they resign.2
That final paycheck has to include compensation for the worker’s:
- earned wages,
- accrued bonuses,
- unused vacation time and other paid time off,
- commission pay, and
- any expense reimbursements.