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Do I Have to Give Two Weeks Notice?

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You’ve been grinding away for 40 hours a week at a job that you hate. You apply for a new job, and get hired to start just a few days later. Can you quit without giving notice?

Under California law, most employees are considered at-will. This is a legal designation that means that your employer can fire you at any time, for any legal reason, without advance notice. By the same token, you generally have a right to quit your job without giving notice. There are some situations where it may be better to provide two weeks notice (or more), and other cases where the best course of action is to leave immediately. If you are concerned about your legal rights or believe that you have experienced an illegal employment action, reach out to an Orange County employment lawyer to schedule a free consultation.

Can I Quit My Job on the Spot?

Under California law, most employees are at-will. This means that you can generally be fired or quit at any time, for any (non-illegal) reason, without notice. As such, California employees are generally entitled to quit on the spot, without giving notice. There are some exceptions to the rule, such as if you have an employee handbook that specifies that you must give notice or if you have an employment contract. If either of those situations applies to you, then you may be required to give notice. Otherwise, you can feel free to quit your job without giving two weeks notice. In some situations, it makes sense for an employee to quit without giving notice. In particular, if an employer is doing something illegal or if an employee feels threatened in some way, the best course of action may be to walk off the job.  This may include workplaces where an employee is subjected to:

If you are being harassed or discriminated against, you should consult with an employment lawyer before quitting your job. Your attorney can advise you on your rights, and help you decide how to handle the situation in a way that keeps you safe and protects your ability to file a claim in the future.

For example:

Marta works as a nurse at a local doctor’s office. One of the doctors has been sexually harassing her. Most of this harassment takes the form of comments about her appearance or asking her out on dates. One day, this doctor corners her in an empty exam room and gropes her. Marta leaves the room crying, and calls a lawyer as soon as she leaves work. The attorney advises her on what to do next – and she quits her job a few days later, giving no notice, and later files a sexual harassment lawsuit against her employer. In this case, because she felt unsafe at work, Marta made a smart decision to quit without giving notice.

Advantages and Disadvantages to Giving Notice

In some situations, it makes sense to give notice to your employer before quitting. If you aren’t being harassed or discriminated against at your job, then giving your employer notice could ensure that you leave on good terms. This can be particularly helpful if you need a reference in the future. At the same time, giving your employer some notice can ensure that when you walk out for the last time, you will do so with your last paycheck. Under California law, employers are required to provide employees with their final paycheck within 72 hours of quitting. However, if you give at least 72 hours’ notice, then your employer has to make your final wages available on your last day. However, because California is an at-will state, giving notice can sometimes backfire. Keep in mind that your employer can fire you at any time without giving you notice, so long as they do so for a reason that is not illegal. If you give two weeks notice, your employer may decide to fire you the next day — leaving you out almost two weeks of wages. For this reason, it is important to carefully consider how your employer might react before you decide to quit and provide notice.

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