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Do you have to give notice before you quit?

Before you quit your job, your employer may ask you to give notice. Often, employers expect to be notified of the intention to leave the position about two weeks before the employee actually leaves. In fact, some employers may have written in a handbook or verbally expressed to the employees that this two weeks’ notice is expected and mandatory.

But is it? Do you actually have to provide notice, or can you just quit your job whenever you want?

At-will employees are not required to provide notice

Most employees in the United States are known as at-will employees. This means that they can quit at any time and they can also be fired at any time. 

There doesn’t have to be a reason – they don’t need to be fired for cause, for example – and they also don’t have to provide notice. An at-will employee could simply wake up on a Monday morning and decide that they are never going to return to work. Their employer would understandably be frustrated, but the employee would not have violated the law.

Workers who have employment contracts do need to follow those contracts. So if the contract specifies that two weeks’ notice must be given, then the employee is bound by the agreement they signed.

But without a contract in place, the employee doesn’t have to offer notice, even if the employer says that it is “mandatory.” In fact, there are even cases where employers will illegally retaliate, such as refusing to send a former employee their final paycheck. If something like this happens to you, be sure you are well aware of the legal steps you can take.