November 17, 2020

Can You Legally Require Employees to Give Two Weeks’ Notice?

By 0penf1ree

Two-week notice may not be a law but there are ways to encourage employees to follow that best practice.
Two weeks’ notice isn’t a legal requirement but is common practice when leaving a job.
There are state laws governing final paychecks and accrued paid time off.
To reduce the impact of employees immediately leaving, be sure to cross-train and have a pipeline of talent.
This article is for business owners designing an employment policy and/or want to limit turnover.
When an employee is leaving your company, you might expect they give two weeks’ notice, but that doesn’t mean they will. Despite work etiquette and standards, there are no laws requiring employees to give any notice, let alone two weeks, before quitting. Sure, contracts exist that if breeched could impact compensation or trigger a lawsuit, but there aren’t any legal protections when an employee decides to leave. That being said, there are ways to lower the odds of that happening and quickly recover if it does occur.

Unexpected departures, especially of key employees, can cause untold upheaval to a business. Nevertheless, employers can’t legally force someone to stay.

Nadira Byles, an HR Consultant at Justworks, said employees who don’t work under an employment contract likely have an at-will employment agreement.

“At-will employees can be terminated at any time with or without cause,” Byles told Business News Daily. “Employees also have the same right and can leave at will any time without any legal consequences.”

Two-week notice isn’t a federal law, but some states have specific regulations surrounding paid time off and final paychecks.

“In California, if an employee resigns without notice, employers have 72 hours to pay both final wages and unused vacation time,” said Byles. [Want help tracking your paid time off? Check out our best time and attendance systems for small businesses.]

According to the advocacy group Workplace Fairness, 24 states including Arizona, California, New York, Maine, Kentucky, and Nebraska have laws requiring employers to pay any unused vacation time in the last paycheck. In those states, workers can only challenge a business over accrued paid time off (PTO) if the business owner explicitly promised to pay unpaid vacation time in the final paycheck, noted Workplace Fairness. Twenty-six states don’t have any laws pertaining to accrued paid vacation.

Key takeaway: Two weeks’ notice is not a federal law. Most employment is at-will which means employers can fire someone at any time and employees can quit without notice. Some states do have rules regarding the last paycheck and accrued paid time off.