What Are the Legal Rights of an Employer When the Employee Quits Without Notice?

by Ruth Mayhew; Updated September 26, 2017

When an employee quits without giving notice, the employer's rights and responsibilities vary according to state law and company policy. There are, however, several consequences that may occur upon an employee who quits without giving what's been considered appropriate notice; that is, at least two weeks' notice. At-will employment, the employee's position, and the company's industry and business reputation are a few things for employers to consider when an employee quits her job without prior notice.

Employment At-Will

With the exception of public sector jobs, appointments, employment contracts and collective bargaining agreements, United States employers follow the employment at-will doctrine, which is typically interpreted in favor of the employer. The usual wording of the employment at-will doctrine states that the employer has the right to terminate employment at will, with or without notice, for any reason or for no reason, provided that the reason is not based on discriminatory factors. However, the employment at-will doctrine also applies to employees. An employee has the right to terminate his employment at any time, for any reason, with or without notice.

Final Paycheck

The U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division states: "Employers are not required by federal law to give former employees their final paycheck immediately." Upon immediate termination, state law determines how and when the employee will receive a final paycheck. Some state laws require immediate payment, others require the employer to provide the former employee's final pay within 72 hours and still others allow the employer to give the former employee final pay on the employer's next scheduled payday. Employees who don't receive their final paycheck by the next regularly scheduled payday after they quit are encouraged to contact the Wage and Hour Division or the state department of labor office.

Company Policies

Employers have the right to implement workplace policies pertaining to the consequences of resignation and termination. For example, Duke University has an extensive policy concerning rehire eligibility based on the reason for which the employment relationship ends. Duke's human resources department policy does not recommend rehiring employees who abandoned their jobs or quit without providing notice. It is within the rights of the employer to flag the personnel files of employees who quit without giving notice as ineligible for rehire. However, these kinds of policies may affect the former employee's ability to find work with another employer. During the selection process with a future employer, the employee's suitability for employment may be questioned if the reference check reveals he is ineligible for rehire by his former employer.

Right to Protect Sensitive Data

Another employer's right upon learning early in the day on which an employee intends to quit is to ask the employee to relinquish all company property and leave immediately. This scenario can happen in organizations where the employee has access to sensitive information and data. Consider an information technology staff member or a bookkeeper for a cash-only business who informs her manager that she intends to quit at the end of the day. There is nothing to prevent the employer from asking the employee to leave at that very moment. This protects the company from any intentionally unethical activities the employee might perform before the end of the day.

About the Author

Ruth Mayhew began writing in 1985. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry" and "Human Resources Managers Appraisal Schemes." Mayhew earned senior professional human resources certification from the Human Resources Certification Institute and holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.