It's a busy Monday morning, and half your team is out with the flu. While you're prepping for the afternoon's client presentation, one of your employees comes into your office to give you his two weeks' notice. Should you demand his company ID and tell him to leave right away, or let him continue to work for the two-week resignation period?When an Employee Gives Two Weeks’ Notice.jpeg 

Employment at Will Gives You Freedom—To a Degree.

Employee turnover is inevitable. But there are several ways you can respond when an employee gives two weeks' notice. First, make sure you comply with the law. Most states have adopted the "employment-at-will" doctrine, which generally allows you to discharge an employee for any reason, or no reason at all, at any time and without advance notice.

However, employment at will may be restricted by a statute—such as a nondiscrimination law—or an express agreement to the contrary—such as a contract with either the employee or a union. So it's important to understand which federal and state laws, and contract provisions, apply to your company.

Check Your Employee Handbook

Also, look carefully at your employee handbook: Courts have ruled that handbooks that do not have a proper employment-at-will disclaimer may lead employees to reasonably expect continued employment. Even with a clear and prominent disclaimer, the handbook shouldn’t make any promises contrary to the employment-at-will statement.

While we're talking about the employee handbook, check to see if company policy requires employees to give two weeks' notice before leaving. If it does, and you send your employee packing before the two weeks are up, you may be on the hook for paying him or her for the two weeks of work denied, depending on the policy and state law.


The summarily dismissed worker could also file for unemployment benefits for the two-week period, which could affect your unemployment insurance rates.

If these limitations don't apply to your situation, and you're concerned that your departing employee may create a negative impression with clients or coworkers, employment at will lets you send the employee home as soon as he or she gives notice.

When to Consider Immediate Dismissal With Pay

Some employers faced with an employee giving notice opt to pay the employee for the two-week period he or she intended to work. This course of action helps forestall the thorny problems we mentioned that can arise with immediate dismissal, but also eliminates concerns you may have about the employee hanging around during the resignation period, such as stealing clients or trade secrets, or simply badmouthing the company and distracting other employees.

Allow 2 Weeks’ Work to Boost Morale, Smooth Transition

In some cases, however, you may want to let your departing employee serve out his final two weeks, even if there is no legal cause to do so.

Remember, terminating employees when they give notice sends a message to other employees, who may choose to leave without warning when they find a new job. While employment at will gives you freedom to fire employees, it gives employees equal freedom to resign with no notice.

If the employee is in good standing and can be expected to work diligently until departing, allowing the final two weeks signals your commitment to the remaining employees.

It also allows the employee to alert clients of his or her departure, to shift responsibilities to colleagues, and to provide training to those colleagues. If the employee has been a valuable contributor and you have confidence in the person's integrity, this option helps make for a smoother transition.

For more information on employment at will, employee handbooks, and other employee management issues, visit us at our website

What Makes Employees Leave and What You Can Do About It [Video Blog]

Topics: employee turnover, employee resignation, Two weeks notice

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