Your company handbook says that you would like employees to give you two weeks of notice before quitting their jobs. The hope is simply that you can use that time to find someone to replace them. In some cases, you may even want the exiting employee to help with the training.
But you may have heard stories of employees simply leaving without any warning at all. There have even been situations where people didn’t inform their boss. They just stopped coming in to work and it was eventually clear that they quit.
As a company owner, this feels slightly ridiculous. But is it illegal? Are your employees allowed to do this?
Not if they breach a contract
If you have at-will employees, then they are allowed to leave whenever they want. You cannot require any sort of advance notice. The two weeks notice that is usually given is just a formality. Under the law, however, workers are not obligated to stay at a particular business any longer than they want to. If they choose to end that relationship and move on, they can do it whenever they see fit. This could even be in the middle of a shift or a work day.
However, if your employees have signed contracts, then they have to abide by those contracts. Many businesses that give out contracts will add clauses about how long a person has to stay with the company, how much advance notice they have to give, what protocols need to be followed when moving on from the position and things of this nature.
For instance, perhaps you run a construction company and some of the workers you bring on are subcontractors. They aren’t actual employees at your company, but are tied to that specific job with a contract laying out their duties and obligations.
In a case like that, if they simply leave, then they have breached this contract and potentially caused your company financial harm. They cannot hide behind the fact that there are at-will employment laws to say that they were allowed to do this. Signing the contract creates a legally binding document that requires them to do more than the law actually would.
In a situation like this, always be sure you understand your legal options.