Can an Employee Be Fired for Giving Notice of Resignation?

Jan 10 2024

Amanda DeMatteis: Hi, Josh.

Josh Goodbaum: Hi, Amanda. What are we talking about today?

DeMatteis: I thought we would talk about a question that I get really frequently: Someone comes in to see me and they say, “Amanda, I want to leave my employer. I want to do the right thing by them. I gave them two weeks’ notice. I was willing to stay on for the two weeks, and instead, they said, ‘No thanks,’ and they showed me the door. Can I sue them for not keeping me employed and paying me for those two weeks?”

What do you think?

Goodbaum: Probably not successfully. If you’re an at-will employee, you don’t have a right to your job. You can be terminated at any time for any reason or no reason at all, and your employer can terminate you because you’ve said you want to work somewhere else. Now, that doesn’t seem fair; it seems like your employer should be thanking you for giving two weeks’ notice. You wanted to do the right thing; you wanted to give them the ability to transition; you wanted to finish up your assignments; you didn’t want to leave them in the lurch. You were doing the right thing – they’re not.

But unfortunately, the law doesn’t always do what’s fair, and so in this situation where you give two weeks’ notice and your employer says, “Yeah, you’re not gonna be allowed to work those two weeks,” I don’t think you have any legal recourse. Not fair, but not illegal.

DeMatteis: Let’s change up the hypothetical a little bit, and let’s say that this potential client was not an employee-at-will. Instead, they had an employment contract that required them to give six months’ notice to their employer if they decided they were going to leave. So, this person goes to their employer and says, “Hey, I’m giving you my intent to resign. I’m giving you my six months’ notice,” and then the employer says, “Nope, we’re not paying you anything. You’re out the door.”

Could that potential client sue their employer?

Goodbaum: Yeah, I think so. Now, contract claims are always gonna be based on the actual language of the contract. So, we need to look at the contract, see what it says, see what it promises to either party. But assuming the contract looks like most do and it simply says to the employee, “Hey, if you’re gonna leave, you’ve got to give us six months’ or 180 days’ notice,” and you give that notice, you’re complying with the intent of the contract. And then if your employer tries not to allow you to work that notice or, more importantly, decides not to compensate you for that notice period, I think you’ve got a good claim for a breach of contract and potentially some other associated claims – maybe it’s a breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.

If you’re in a situation where you have a contractual obligation to provide a notice period and your employer doesn’t let you work that notice period or doesn’t compensate you for that notice period where you’re doing everything you can to comply with your contractual obligations, then it’s time to go talk with an employment lawyer.

DeMatteis: Makes a lot of sense. Thank you so much, and thank you for watching. We’ll see you next time.

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amanda dematteis discussing being fired for giving notice of resignation

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