Whether you work for a company for 10 months or 10 years, know that your resignation may result in significant hardship and headache for your employer. In addition to the cost of replacing you, your employer may experience a decrease in productivity and a loss of morale.
Because of the losses associated with losing a valuable employee, your employer may require you to give an advanced notice of your intent to leave. However, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, your employer may have a hard time enforcing a related provision — and may face legal backlash for attempting to do so.
California is an at-will employment state
When assessing the enforceability of a notice requirement, the California courts will almost always refer to the fact that California is an at-will employment state. What this means is that employers have the right to hire and fire employees at will and without any rhyme, reason or notice. Likewise, employees do not have a legal obligation to continue to work for an employer if they no longer desire to. Though other factors may affect cases that stem from employees suddenly quitting their jobs, the at-will doctrine has the most influence.
An employment contract may create an exception … Maybe
If you have a higher-level position or play an integral role in your company’s operations, you likely have an employment contract in place. Your employment contract may include a provision that requires you to give advance notice of your leaving. While the contract can and does create an exception to the state’s at-will doctrine, and while it can spell out what you should do in the event that you plan to resign, it cannot legally prevent you from leaving a company at a time when you feel is right. In fact, according to SHRM, you can quit and leave immediately even if your employment contract prohibits you from doing so.
That said, if you have a contract in place and resign without notice regardless, your employer may sue you for breach of contract. The damages it may collect are limited, however, to the losses your employer accrued because of your lack of notice. Those include the costs of lost productivity from the day you quit to the day it hires your replacement.
Resigning for your position requires careful consideration and planning. However, if you feel a need to quit on a whim, make sure you consider the legal implications of doing so beforehand.