I occasionally get emails from workers who feel that their managers have treated them poorly, perhaps even illegally.
This week, a father wrote about his son’s resignation.
They let him go the next day, so he was without income for the two weeks. Can you help recover his earnings?”
The assumption is that the son was owed wages for the two weeks he would have worked after giving notice. In fact, the money is referred to as “earnings,” which is a misnomer.
Terminating an employee who has resigned is not uncommon in many industries; companies prefer to cut ties with workers who may have access to customers or sensitive account information or whose performance may decline or be disruptive during the last couple of days at work. Although it isn’t a pleasant way to end his employment, especially since the worker in this case had done the right thing and tendered notice, there is no legal or ethical prohibition against this practice. The company has the obligation to pay for any hours worked up to the resignation, and may have a policy in place that also pays out any unused vacation time that has been accrued (although that is not a legal obligation, either.)
The company is also not obligated to immediately pay wages that are due upon termination; they are perfectly within their rights to process the final paycheck within a “reasonable time” (say 30 days or so.) But most employers process final pay during the next normal payroll run.
Florida is an employment at will state, which means that an employee can be terminated at any time for any cause, including giving notice that he’s resigning. It’s true, though, that some states’ laws do consider the two-week notice to be an implied employment contract if it is required in company policy. If a two-week notice is only requested, then there may be no implied contract for employment.
Here’s one of the many legal and employment forums I found that addressed this question. The attorney who writes this suggests that companies should voluntarily pay out the two weeks even if they let the employee go immediately.
I agree that it would have been the right thing to do, especially since the employee acted in good faith and in that it sets a very bad tone for other workers, who will not bother to give two weeks’ notice when it means that they will lose out on that income. It simply makes more sense to phone in a resignation on your last day so you can be paid for the full time you meant to stay on the job. That’s a shame, because customer service and workloads suffer when someone suddenly leaves his job.
If you are terminated when you offer your resignation, I recommend that you contact your new employer and ask if she will take you on earlier than planned (in neutral terms; showing any resentment to your former employer would be inappropriate.)
Here’s the script: “I turned in my 2-week resignation yesterday, and the company has a policy of termination rather than asking me to work for the last two weeks. That means I’m available to start right away, and I’d like to do so if I can.”
If you have experienced what feels like unfair or actionable treatment on the job, feel free to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I will find answers for you.