In California, there is generally no requirement that you give your employer two weeks notice, or any notice for that matter, before quitting or terminating a job. Though employers who receive two weeks notice may be more likely to give you positive references in the future.
Here are five things to know:
- You may be legally required to give notice if you and your employer have an express or implied employment contract.
- If you give at least 72 hours notice before quitting, your employer is required to give you your final paycheck when you leave.
- If you quit without notice, then your employer has 72 hours to give you your final paycheck.
- Quitting without notice may be the safe choice if you are a victim of co-worker harassment, harassment by a supervisor, or bullying.
- In most cases, employers do not need to give you notice before laying off or firing you because California is an “at-will“ employment state.
Our California labor and employment attorneys will highlight the following in this article:
- 1. In California, can I quit a job on the spot?
- 2. What are the pros and cons of giving notice?
- 3. Are there times when I shouldn’t give notice?
- 4. Are there exceptions to at-will employment?
- 5. What should my resignation letter say?
- 6. When do I get my final paycheck?
- Additional resources
1. In California, can I quit a job on the spot?
California laws say that, in general, you are not required to give your employers two weeks notice prior to quitting or leaving a job.
For example, if you are an employee of a Los Angeles-based company, you can get up and leave your job (in most cases) without any legal obligation to:
- give advance notice to the company, or
- say anything in advance to co-workers.
This is because under California Labor Code 2922, all employees in the state are presumed to be “at-will.” “At-will” employment means employment can be terminated at:
- any time,
- by either the employer or you, and
- without any early or advance notice to the other party.1
Note, though, that there are some exceptions to this general rule of giving no notice. Some employment contracts might require you to give a certain notice. In addition, an employee handbook may necessitate the need for a notice.
It is in your best interest to check with company policies, if considering leaving a job, to learn more about your legal rights and responsibilities.
Note that some people choose to leave work without telling their boss at all. There is no across-the-board rule, though many companies consider three days of unexplained work absence to be constructive quitting. See our related article, Job abandonment in California – What is it and what is the law?
2. What are the pros and cons of giving notice?
With most things, giving prior notice of leaving a job comes with certain:
- advantages, and
2.1. Pros of a notice period
There are some definite legal and practical benefits of giving your employer early news of leaving a job:
- Your final paycheck should be given to you at the time you leave (as long as you give 72 hours notice);
- Notice gives your employer an opportunity to try to persuade you to stay, which may include a substantial raise or increased benefits; and
- Your employer will likely give you a better reference for future job opportunities; whereas if you leave them in a lurch, they may badmouth you to potential employers.
2.2. Cons of a notice
The main disadvantage of a notice relates back to the fact that California is an at-will state.
This means if you give two weeks notice, the employer can still go ahead and fire you before the notice period expires. This can take place and even leave you without a wrongful termination claim.2
3. Are there times when I shouldn’t give notice?
There are definitely times when you should leave a job without giving notice. Most of these times occur when the employer violates the law, or you feel threatened.
Examples of times when you should leave without notice are when the employer engages in:
- age discrimination,
- employment discrimination,
- race discrimination,
- disability discrimination,
- gender discrimination,
- religious discrimination, and
- medical condition discrimination.
You should also leave without notice when you feel threatened at work, perhaps due to:
- some type of harassment, either sexual or non-sexual harassment,
- bullying, or
- a hostile work environment.
That said, the victim of discrimination or harassment is advised to speak with a labor law attorney for guidance before taking any action, including leaving the job.3
4. Are there exceptions to at-will employment?
At-will employment is not the only employment model that is recognized under California law.
The law does recognize some exceptions to an at-will employment arrangement. The most popular is when an employment relationship is governed by an employment contract, including implied contracts.
Here, the terms of the contract may specify:
- when an employer can fire you or terminate your employment, and
- when and how you can leave your work or quit your job.
The contract typically also provides details on:
- your pay or salary,
- the availability of unemployment insurance if employment is terminated,
- work hours,
- your job duties, and
- the length of the employment relationship.4
5. What should my resignation letter say?
A resignation letter should be gracious and include all the key information your employer needs to know, including your final day of work. For example:
Dear [Manager’s Name],
I am writing to inform you of my resignation from my position as [position title] at [company name], effective [two weeks from today’s date].
I have sincerely enjoyed and appreciated the opportunities I’ve had working at [company name] over the past [number of years/months]. This was a difficult decision for me, but I believe it is the right next step in my career.
Thank you for your mentorship and support during my time here. I will cherish the relationships I’ve built and knowledge I’ve gained while working alongside such a talented team.
Please let me know if there is anything I can do to assist with the transition of my duties over the next two weeks. I wish you and the team all the best.
Sincerely, [Your Name]
6. When do I get my final paycheck?
If you resign your job in California with at least 72 hours notice, you should receive your final paycheck on your last day of work. Otherwise, the employer has 72 hours to pay you after you give notice.
Note that there are special extended deadlines for film industry workers, seasonal employees, and certain other occupations.
Your final paycheck must include all unpaid wages owed plus any accrued unused vacation time, sick time, commissions, and other benefits owed. If there is a dispute, you can file a wage claim with the California Labor Commissioner’s Office and potentially receive up to 30 days of waiting time penalties in addition to your back pay.5
For more information beyond California resignation laws, refer to the following:
- How To Resign From Your Job In The Most Professional Way – Article by Forbes.
- How to Write a Job Resignation Letter – Guide by Business News Daily.
- 3 Best Resignation Letter Examples – Samples and tips provided by The Entrepreneur.
- Top 10 Good Reasons to Quit Your Job – Discussion by financial website, The Balance.
- Why Does Quitting Your Job Still Feel So Hard? – Article by BBC Worklife.
- California Labor Code 2922.
- Same. See, for example, Jones v. Lodge at Torrey Pines Partnership (2008) 42 Cal. 4th 1158, 177 P.3d 232. See also Leshner v. Postmates, Inc. (Superior Court of California, County of San Francisco, 2018) Case No. CGC-17-563417.
- See, for example, Sanchez v. Unemployment Ins. Appeals Bd. (1984) 36 Cal. 3d 575, 685 P.2d 61, 205.
- See, for example, Scott v. Pacific Gas & Electric Co. (1995) 11 Cal. 4th 454, 904 P.2d 834. 2d 427; see, for example, Guz v. Bechtel National, Inc. (2000) 24 Cal. 4th 317, 8 P.3d 1089.
- California Labor Code 201 LC.