Is It Illegal To Quit A Job Without Notice

The Prepared Resume - Is It Illegal To Quit A Job Without Notice

Is it illegal to quit a job without notice? Yet another common question asked by many employees. Although it is not illegal for you to quit a job without notice, you may face some consequences based on the employer and the type of agreement between employee and employer.

Longer term ramifications could possibly include a damaged reputation and lack of employment opportunities in the future. This may sound overblow but quitting your job without notice is considered unprofessional conduct. (And by notice, I specifically mean a notice period.) For instance, if the word spread about your unprofessional behavior, do you think it would hurt your reputation? Let's look a this a bit more in detail:

Is it Illegal to Quit a Job Without Notice?

When you resign from your job you should always provide a certain amount of notice. Most of the time this is to allow your employer to being a search for a suitable replacement during the notice period. Although it is not illegal to quit your job with notice, I recommend notifying your employer. By providing this professional courtesy, it allows you as the employee and employer to tie up any loose ends before you leave the organization. And more importantly, it allows you and your employer a chance to perform some type of transition.

That being said, no, it is not illegal to quit a job without notice as there are currently no federal laws within the United States that require employees to give notice to their employers. I completely understand there are extenuating circumstances, but if you are focused solely on leaving a company you are focused on the wrong thing. The more important factor to consider is how much notice you should provide before you leave a company. Providing notice showcases your professionalism, work standards, and character.

Should you quit a job without notice?

My recommendation is to always provide at least two weeks' notice before leaving a job or company. In many industries two weeks is enough time but in some roles a longer notice (such as 4 weeks) is more appropriate. That is always the default starting point but we are people and life does not always go as we'd like. Sometimes a situation arises where it actually is appropriate where you need to and should quit your job without notice.

If you are in the rare scenario where you need to quit your job effective immediately, ensure you communicate the intent to leave to your employer ASAP! You need write a resignation letter to your manager. And yes, even an email communication is fine. I have a template for changes in life circumstances and a specific template tailored exactly for an immediate resignation. If you are interested in that template, it is included in the bundle here.

The way you quit your job will either impact relationships positively or negatively. You are the one who gets to chose. Remember, it is crucial to think through the details of your circumstances and make the wisest decision possible. Because the whole purpose is to act professionally when you leave the company (even if the company is not acting professionally).

Let's look at a few scenarios where it may be appropriate to quit your job without notice.

When is it Okay to Quit Your Job Without Notice?

Some employees are contractors where the contract dictates cause for termination. Others work with a company under at-will terms. (That simply means that the employee or employer can choose to terminate the employment relationship at-will.) Therefore, there is no legal obligation for the employee to give two weeks notice.

But there are certainly life circumstances (positive and negative) that perpetuate the need to resign from a job effective immediately. Here are a few employee based scenarios where it can be appropriate:

  • Hostile or unsafe office environment
  • Personal health issues
  • Family emergency
  • Fear of retribution
  • Better employment opportunities (be careful with this one)
  • Ethical problems you face
  • Short-term employment contract

I have to repeat this: if you face a situation where you have to quit your job without two weeks' notice, it is crucial to act professionally. When you work tactically and play it smartly, you can resign effective immediately and avoid common pitfalls many face when quickly quitting a job.

Why You Shouldn't Do It

Are you in one of the scenarios listed above? Do you want to quit your job right now? If so, are you in one of the scenarios listed above or a similar one? If so, I'd have a hard time telling you that you should not do it, but I also know there are many reasons why you should not leave your job without at least providing formal notice in writing.

If you can put up with your circumstances for two more weeks, provide the standard 2 week notice. If you can deal with the job for 2 weeks, don't quit on the spot! (If you need a place to start with your employer notice take a look at my resignation bundle for this specific scenario.)

Here are a few reasons why you shouldn't quit your job without notice.

Your co-workers will blame you

When you quit a job without notice, your co-workers won't blame the boss. What if you left your co-workers in the middle of an important project? If it doesn't go well, who do you think would be the first one blamed? Honestly, people just get mad and your co-workers may retaliate and spread false information about your resignation on social media.

You May Need to Apply for a Job in the Same Company

The chances are that you may run into the same company again because the churn rate within many industries is higher. Remember those co-workers you left high and dry during the middle of that project? Someone can easily make a recommendation to HR to avoid rehiring you for the same position or even a different one.

I believe if people were honest with themselves, most believe they won't work for the same company again. But you'd be surprised of how many return to a previous company. And if you have burned your bridges with that company, you will not have that job option in the future.

You will lose Financial Benefits

Some companies and organizations have pre-defined notice policies in their employees' handbooks. The notice period is usually two weeks or more, depending on the company. If you fail to give two weeks' notice, you can potentially lose financial benefits. These include planned bonuses, vacation payout, wages, or compensation for your family's health and wellbeing, etc.

You will have a Bad Reference from your Employer

If you burn a bridge because you quit a job on the spot, my guess is that this employer will not serve as a reference for you in future opportunities. That may not be the best for your career.

How to Properly Quit a Job?

All employment has a beginning, middle, and end. A true professional employee carefully considers all options and makes an informed decision to leave any company. Whatever is your reason for leaving the company, it is crucial to do it professionally. You can take a read through my article on practical tips to quit a job but allow me to mention those important to consider in this circumstance.

Provide Appropriate Notification

Give the company the time they need. Two weeks. Four weeks. Whatever. Allow the business to react and take the next steps with you so those next steps aren't against you.

Inform Your Boss in Person

This is so old school but you can actually have a conversation about a difficult topic face to face (physically or virtually) through a conversation! Go into you inform your employer in person about your decision before you tell anyone else. Make sure you prepare yourself for what you will say and how you will respond before you meet with your boss. Focus on how you will respond if your employer has an emotional reaction and offer you incentives to stay in the company.

Submit a Brief Resignation Letter

Write a resignation letter. If you don't know what to say or how to say it, that's fine. Use a template. Regardless, your resignation letter can make all the difference in the world between getting walked out of the building or working and receiving a final paycheck. Need to know how to write one? Read this.

Inform your Colleagues

Inform members of your team or department who will be bothered you are leaving. Stay personable, factual, and positive. Avoid focusing your explanation on the past. Prepare yourself for a wide range of emotional reactions from your co-workers. Offer help during the notice period. All these things will showcase your professionalism.


Lastly, there are no legal obligations upon employees to leave a company without notice. However, it hurts your reputation, professionalism, and makes you look like a selfish jerk most of the time. Follow the tips and tricks above to quit your job professionally.

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