Have a general question about employment law? Want to share a story? I welcome all comments and questions. I can't give legal advice here about specific situations but will be glad to discuss general issues and try to point you in the right direction. If you need legal advice, contact an employment lawyer in your state. Remember, anything you post here will be seen publicly, and I will comment publicly on it. It will not be confidential. Govern yourself accordingly. If you want to communicate with me confidentially as Donna Ballman, Florida lawyer rather than as Donna Ballman, blogger, my firm's website is here.

Friday, August 10, 2012

My Employer Says I Have To Resign. What Should I Do?

Suzanne Lucas, the not-at-all-evil Evil HR Lady at CBS Money Watch, wrote an interesting piece about being forced to resign, and I wanted to talk some more about this important issue here. I get this issue all the time. People come to me and say, “I was forced to resign.” Huh? How did the employer do that? Gun to head? Torture devices? Kidnapped loved one? Because your employer can’t make you quit. Quitting is entirely, 100%, up to you.

Just because your boss or HR comes to you and says you have to resign, doesn’t mean you should. My usual advice is never, ever resign unless you have another job lined up or the company offers you an incentive to resign that makes it worth your while.

Suzanne Lucas says you should ask these questions/say the following before resigning:
• How much severance will you give me in exchange for my resignation?
• If I resign, will you oppose unemployment?
• Why do you want me to resign?
• What will you say when you are called for a reference?
• I will take this and have it reviewed by my attorney before signing.
• I need this in writing.
What will be my official "reason for termination" be in your HR system as well as my paper file?
I agree 100%. You need to weigh your options carefully before agreeing to resign. Now is the time to negotiate. If they want you gone, let them pay you to go away. Otherwise, make them fire you. You need to consider the upsides and downsides to resigning versus being fired. Here are some things to consider.

Why You Shouldn’t Quit

You haven’t complained about illegal harassment or discrimination that occurred: It may be a bit late in the game, but if you didn’t follow the company’s written policy on reporting harassment based on race, age, sex, religion, national origin, disability, etc. then you may lose potential claims against the employer. Now is the time to put together your formal, written complaint of discrimination and harassment. Submit it to HR as soon after the meeting where they asked you to resign as you can. If you think the resignation request is being pushed by your harasser, say so. Tell them how others of a different race, age, sex, religion, or whatever your protected category is were treated differently. Tell them that those others are not being asked to resign. Ask them to do a prompt investigation. Sometimes, they really don’t know about the discrimination and reporting it might stop the termination process in its tracks.

They aren’t offering anything: If they don’t offer severance or some other monetary incentive, why would you quit? Don’t make it easy on them. If they want you out of there, they should offer something, in writing.

You might lose your right to unemployment benefits: Some unscrupulous employers use the resignation as an excuse to claim you aren’t entitled to unemployment. It could be your word against theirs if you don’t properly document that you were forced to resign.

They want you to sign something right away: If the employer is shoving something in front of you and demanding you sign it, consider that a red flag. They’re trying to trick you. Don’t sign anything you don’t understand or are too distraught to think about clearly. Tell them you need time to think about it. Take it to an employee-side employment lawyer if there’s anything in it you don’t fully understand.

You have claims against the company: If you think you have a discrimination, whistleblower, worker’s compensation retaliation, breach of contract or other claim against the employer, you may have leverage to negotiate a better exit package. Don’t sign a release of claims without fully exploring your options.

You aren’t fooling anyone: Some people think a resignation looks better on a resume. Maybe. But if you resign and are then unemployed for months or years, who do you think you’re fooling. Nobody in their right mind quits without having another job in this economy. HR people aren’t (mostly) dumb, so they will know something happened that prompted your resignation.

Why You Should Quit

Great severance package: If you are offered a severance package that will tide you over sufficiently when you’re looking for another job, then you might want to take the deal. Make sure you aren’t also signing away your right to work for a competitor, your pension, or something else of value. Take it to a lawyer to be sure.

Won’t challenge unemployment: In most states, the mere promise that you’ll get unemployment without a hassle isn’t much incentive. Unemployment is usually a fraction of what you were making. However, if you think they might have a basis to successfully challenge your unemployment, then you might consider the resignation as long as they make the promise about unemployment in writing.

You have an alternative: If you have a job offer you’ve been considering, have a startup company you want to spend more time on, or think it might be time to retire, then a forced resignation might help you make a smooth transition. Make sure they agree they won’t tell potential employers or customers anything other than that you left to pursue other options.

If your employer is asking you to resign, you have some power, as Suzanne Lucas points out in her excellent article. Now is the time to explore your options, talk to a lawyer, call your union rep, and read everything carefully. You may have more leverage to negotiate in this situation than you think. Good luck!


  1. yup, have to admit that one always brought a grin to me also. with people like that it is no wonder all of you lawyers are a member of the 1% lol

    and don't get me wrong i do believe you when you tell us you have clients say the things you say.
    have a good day, Donna. btw, how is the suit coming along on the shirt incident?

  2. Hi Griper. The matter was resolved amicably, thank goodness. Thanks for asking!

    1. Is this the orange/yellow (Cant remember, too lazy to google) shirt case? I'm glad to hear it.

  3. Thank for the link and the expansion on the ideas. Yes, it always cracks me up when people are forced to resign. What are they going to do to you if you don't resign? Fire you?

    Which, in a round about way, reminds me of when I quit a job. I worked from home, but needed to come into the office to turn in my badge/laptop, etc. I was scheduled to meet with my boss on, say Wednesday, for final stuff. HR wanted me to come in on Tuesday to meet with them. It was an hour commute and I had a 4 month old, who was exclusively breastfed, so I had to arrange babysitting close to the office.

    Anyway, the HR person started to threaten me and inform me that I had no choice, I HAD TO COME MEET WITH HER ON TUESDAY!!!!

    I said, "Or what? You'll fire me?"


    I met with her on Wednesday after meeting with my boss.

  4. Too funny! That's exactly right. I don't get it, but so many people do everything they are told, including giving up their job, signing noncompetes, and agreeing to arbitrate.

    My mission in life is to remind folks they have some rights (just not very many). One big right is to not quit if you don't want to or it it isn't in your best interest.

    It sounds like your old HR person was so wrapped up in power she forgot about common sense. That happens too much. Maybe between us we can help bring common sense back to HR! Thanks for writing such a terrific piece.

    1. People give their bosses/companies waaaaaay too much power.

  5. One more thing that cannot be emphasized enough. it is important to get everything agreed to in writing but it is also more important to write everything down yourself too just in case the employer doesn't follow through on oral promises.

    this is especially important when there are incidences like Suzanne just described. and remind them to document time and place it occurred, and to document as soon as possible after the incidences occur.

  6. This is a really helpful site. You have some great ideas. Copyright Law

  7. I was given the option to resign or an investigation being opened for something someone in my team did. They said I had to decide immediately, I panicked and resigned. Truth be told it is eating me up not only because it was unfair but because I missed my chance to negotiate a redundancy package. Other people made similar mistakes but I was singled out. It happened almost two months ago, is there something I can still do about it?

    1. Hi DGWB. It might be worth speaking to an employment lawyer in your state, especially if you didn't sign a release of claims when you resigned.

  8. I have worked for a company for about 4 years, in that time we experience rapid growth which i was directly responsible for.The GM was completely inept and lost control of the staff. People started getting terminated that shouldnt have and people that should have didnt. It resulted in a lawsuit being filed against our company in which I was called to testify to The Owner/CEO and our current HR about our GM, extensive notes were taken. I made it clear that I feared retaliation If I told the truth. Consequently nothing happened to the GM and over the past year and a half He has been incredible defensive ,vendictive and has slandered me to anyone who will listen. I have made this known to the owner on multiple occations and he promised me that he was working on a solution to the problem. In the meantime I have turned the other cheek repeatedly too many times to count. I have begged the GM for a truse, just to reduce the friction and stress and to no avail.We now have aquired a new HR person, she was interview and hired by this GM and based on her attitude towards me immedialy after she was hired I can tell that she was misinformed by the GM about me. So now I can not go to my HR with complaints as she is having an affair with another manager in our company.Recently and for no explanation I was put on a 90 probation for a "attitude" The owner stated to me that It looks as though I cant get along with The GM the HR or another manger so I must get along with everyone, because this is first and last warning. He said sign the 90 day probation paper or dont come to work on monday. I regretably signed it late Sunday night and went to work on Monday. I put in the notes field" that I would like to know what recent events I should be aware of so that I can understand what I could have done differently" I turned it in directly to the owner on Monday morning and asked him to read my comments to which he replied " the recent events are that another manager has filed a formal complaint against you." It just so happens that its the manager that we suspect is having an affair the HR person. So because I have a family to support and I dont want to quit, I put my tail between my legs and went back to work. A different manager and a friend of mine went and was speaking to the GM about our new President and the GM lost controll of himself and basically said he was going to fire me if I looked crosseyed at him. He wasnt going put up with me again. He blames everything on me and now I dont know what to do.

    1. If you were here in Florida, and assuming your testimony involved disclosing something illegal like discrimination, I'd probably suggest you put a formal complaint of retaliation in writing to the HR person. You can't make verbal complaints, but you can certainly document what is going on. I'd definitely suggest you contact an employment attorney in your state to find out what your rights are there.

  9. My boss has been hinting to me that I should look for another job since I've been with the company for almost 10 years and their is no growth. After a while I started to feel like she was harassing me to quit. Always asking if I liked my job and critiquing my attitude and personality. She started to make assumptions and came to her own conclusion that I was not happy. Recently she told me that things needed to change or it wasn't going to end well. After this conversation she told me that she needs an email sent to her stating a leave date or if I am staying. I was told if I choose to stay she will performance manage me and write me up for substandard job performance. I have never been written up, never received a customer complaint, and my boss once told me she is good at making people quit their jobs. At this point what are my rights?

    1. Hi Stella Ann. I'd suggest hanging on the best you can. Polish your resume and start sending it out. In the meantime, see if you can figure out a protected category you fit into. Is she singling you out due to a disability, such as depression? Is she singling you out compared to other employees of a different race? Different sex? You get the drift. If so, start documenting and gather your evidence. Make sure you keep it at home, not at the office.

  10. I had surgery a dew months ago and was out on disability. Since then she has been making mountains out of mole hills. My company is known to fight unemployment claims so I am worried I will lose income either way. My boss actually told me that I have a great resume and will have no problem finding something.

  11. If you’re confused about why your employer is telling you to resign, you must immediately call for the help of an attorney. Don’t sign any agreement. Clarify everything first with your employer, and tell everything to your attorney. You should also give your attorney a copy of your contract, so he/she will know the terms and conditions of your employment. Let the attorney discuss everything about what you can do on this matter. You have the right to say no as an employee.

    >Cade Culpepper

  12. Some employers force people to resign due to the company’s bankruptcy or they’re either overstaffed. If that is the case, I think sometimes it is okay resign, but only if you are compensated for the services you have given to the company. However, I suggest that it is best to seek the advice of an employment lawyer to help you decide and maybe to explain the terms of your resignation.

    Mike Clark

  13. I've been with a company, non profit, for over 24 years, but have been off work for 6 months due to an MVA accident 9 months ago. After the accident I worked 3 months, however difficult and due to FML form, they wouldn't let me work until I was fully released. My doctor wouldn't do that. I am still under doctors care and they won't release me 100%, because of the lifting, bending, twisting, standing long periods or sitting long periods - I just can not do it. I had a call stating they could not longer hold my job, then near the end of the conversation they say something like 'so you agree to resign'.. WHAT???! I knew that the FML was good for only 3 months (federal/state protection). They have gone an additional 3 months. I believe they could hold it longer, considering my length with job and because I was a good employee (mgt -18 years and staff 6 yrs). For several reasons I won't resign, many you listed, although they said they are putting down I will be rehire status, and they don't think I would have a problem with unemployment because it's medical... hah! I am also in the middle of things with the auto insurance.... I love my job, but know they have been getting rid of people just prior to me leaving, and since my absence with any length of time there.. 'reorganizing' hiring people new people or putting people in similar positions with less time/less pay.
    I have the legal insurance I have paid for through my employer do you know if they offer help in this area? It's through Hyatt Legal Plans. Thanks.

  14. Hi Donna i field a claim with the EEOC because the director of the company says racist comment verbal abuse the employees and now the president of the company is more a less trying to intimadate me by telling me take a week or two off with pay but would'nt put in writing she the President of the company also told me she has a good lawyer she paid already 60,000 to so i need to think about what Im doin she is making me feel even more victimized what should i do

  15. Hi Donna I work in County Government and was sexually harassed by a woman who is kinda over me. I complained but nothing happen than they wrote me up twice and I was told if I get wrote up one more time I would be fired.

    So I acted fast and filed a formal complaint and mail it to them certified return receipt, they hired an outside consulting firm which the woman who investigated was a licensed Attorney. After the so called investigation was over with they said there was some inappropriate stuff going on but that the woman who harassed me was told she could go back to work.

    And that I could go back to work when I feel comfortable enough to do so.
    I ask them to take away my right ups and pay me for time lost from work.
    They never responded to my emails or phone calls and the Retaliation continues.

    My question is that the County Attorney has got involved and ask me for medical records release so he can look at about me been off work for one month due to stress, but he also wants me to sign a release to give the County permission to gather medical records from any and all doctors who I have seen in the past year. He also wants release about any medications I am taking that might prevent me from doing the job in which I do for the County.
    He also told me not to contact Human Resource Manager or County Manager and that no County employees would respond to me about anything.

    Since the County Attorney is a paid County employee like myself this seems like it would be a Conflict ? Bias ? and or ethic violation ?


  16. My boss and CEO of a small consulting company, told me that I resigned. I was on a business trip and did not resign. Upon returning I went to work in my office and he approached me, again stating: "Why are you here? You resigned."

    I replied that if I would resign I would do the following:
    1. Have another job that I accepted in writing first
    2. Meet with Boss
    3. Compose and hand in a letter of resignation giving two weeks notice

    After he verbally told me to leave immediately, I packed my personal belongings. He approached me while still in my office and stated; "I am not doing this to hurt you, please remember that."

    I cannot get COBRA benefits because the HR Rep did not initiate anything.
    I cannot file for unemployment because he stated I resigned.


  17. I was asked to resign from my last job, and it was one of the best days of my life. Terrible pay, no performance reviews, even though they kept saying over and over again "we'll get to them" lol.. whatever, and no matter how good of a job you did on something, the boss would just find something to complain about and offer no tips on how to improve. Anyway, the day I let go, the HR manager offered for my status to say that I quit or resigned instead of that I got fired, so I did that. Then, I thought I would need unemployment and so I asked the HR manager about that and he said that he would need to change my status to "involuntary termination". Now naturally, at first I didn't want to do that, but I decided I really needed the unemployment so I went ahead and told him to do that. However then, when I talked to the unemployment office, they asked me why I would change my status, and I told them that's what the HR manager said, and then the unemployment office told me that the employer has no say so in whether or not you get unemployment. So, does that mean that I could've actually kept my status the way it was originally and still received unemployment?

  18. I worked for this company 17 years and most were excellent years.
    To make it quick as possible for what happen I was pretty much the
    hero there. In their 50 years in business I made more money for
    this company than anyone, fact tripled the next person to me.
    Something like 12 million.

    I never was taking breaks, well maybe, they just kept
    you to busy. When I asked they just laughed. Before I
    can get to the point, you need to know some history.

    Well,, I was victim to false rumors...Unfounded Rumors.
    It wasn't the rumors, it was who was making them. The right
    Person, believe me , can ruin your career. If he's management
    and some how gets all the top idiots to believe him. Try over
    Coming that. You can't when it's the owner/GM's son.

    This same person was putting homosexual screen savors and drawing mess
    privates and taping them to my computer. Just were my customers and employee's
    Could see, but hard for me if I wasn't looking for them.

    He made me work more hrs than the Dr. ordered, He
    Degraded me and my wife in front of customers and employees abou
    our drug history 10 years ago. He made it a point to call all
    The knew guys in to get a laugh and made it appear we never gave them up
    Now I kept my composer, believe me 10 years ago I could of hurt him bad.

    I've been hospitalized 5 times in the past 3 years, even was in a coma for
    two weeks. Which bringing to why my boss had to co-sign.

    While I was in a coma rent came do and uptel then I never been late. It just
    so happens I just switch banks the day I went under, so my wife had no
    access because of it. So you guessed even though the renter had 4 moons
    total in rent, whih security deposit , first and last, she evicted us
    making hard to rent again. The day I got out of the hospital, we
    were moving.

    The 20,000 my boss said I owed,, which was off by a lot, was to
    Be paid off from my efforts of getting a new department going.
    It was the the first of the month, bills were paid and had no
    Money. Well after 300 calls coming to my house 30 times to tell
    Me I need to move. He co-signed or my family rent a house as I
    explained above

    Follow me? Well his calls and even coming to my house
    several times, telling me I owe him 20,000 dollars for helping me
    with my rent. I lost 40,000 a year for false unfounded rumors and
    he new it. Here's why this can be false, (Because your employer
    can’t make you quit. Quitting is entirely, 100%, up to you).

    After him harassing me it took me almost 6 weeks to move.

    He said they not only put me disability they also
    Put on this FAMILY LEAVE and that's why He's here. He says I don't
    Have a job after six weeks and my insurance runs out in 3 days.

    Said "that's helping me out, hell I can't even go to the Dr. Now and
    I am very weak.

    He says he can't set a standard here, my hands are tied. The next day he
    calls meant tells me he has the answer.

    He reminds me off retirement which I could get and pay him back, but first
    I needed to sign this form saying I quit in order to get it. I told him I
    wasn't quitting. He says its the only way plus we will hire you back just like
    Last time. This made since because we did it before and they just hired me back.
    This is exactly what we were supposed to do this time once I gave him his money. After looking
    Into this new stupid law I found out he was lying or didn't get good information

    I found as long as I use disability and this family leave in tandem, I actually
    Have 12 weeks. Ahead choices but not many with not having any money no job,
    and no ins I needed something because mainly I couldn't get evicted again.
    Then what do Did, paving 4 kids and married.. Well I ended up going to the hospital
    By ambulance. Now I have a large sum of money owed. I ended up not giving him a dime,
    which means II have knob for the first time since I was 12 years old, 37 years ago.

    What would you do? Remember no their is going too help and I had no outdid resources.
    It took 2 months before I got disability check

  19. I was just recently offered to resign from my job. I had option A or B. A was resign and my manager claimed he wouldn't dispute unemployment benefits, but I had to sign the letter right now. I did not trust him as he lies on a regular basis.I told him I wanted to find out if what he told me was true before signing and he said sign now or never.? Option B was to keep working and with one more mistake I would be terminated. Now I'm wondering what I should do?

  20. Can Human Resources say that since you asked for a 2 week notice form and told your supervisor that you think your last day might be a Saturday of that 2 weeks, that they "accepted my resignation", I told them that I never submitted my 2 weeks notice and I never gave them a date. They said that I gave it to them verbally and that I told my supervisor a specific date and I told them I wasn't sure if I was going to leave for sure or not and I also told my supervisor the next day after I told her my last day maybe that following Saturday that I didn't put my 2 weeks in yet because I have bills to pay.
    I had mentioned submitting my 2 weeks due to the fact that I was afraid of being retaliated against or harassed even more because I was about to fill out a sexual harassment complaint against 3 coworkers and a harassment (bullying and hostle) complaint against my supervisor. I then thought about it and decided to stay and try to get through it and hope for the best but Human resources us trying to make me look like I was the one that gave them reason, making assumptions that they probably felt comfortable talking with me to make sexual comments..unbelievable! I feel helpless and she said she will start an investigation. Last week I made a complaint to my supervisor about a different sexual comment but did not report it to HR. So when I initially walked into HR to tell them about my complaints they said that it was funny that I was in the office to complain of sexually harassment all of a sudden when they had someone last week and put a complaint in against me. That is not possible because I do not feel comfortable talking to anyone that I work with about sex but if there was a complaint put in a week ago, I was never talked to or investigated. They have had issues with other employees for sexual harassment and did not follow the employee handbook procedures. I have only worked for this employer for 1 and a 1/2 months and from the beginning I had a problem with the company because they gave me a different shift from the one I was hired and I have a child to care for but I still tried to work through it and it's been hard and had to miss 2 days already, 1 more and I will be fired. They said I signed a paper stating that they can change my shift and department at any time so I do not think I can collect unemployment because of that. They moved due to discrimination because the department I was hired to work in had the supervisor that was sexually harassing a few employees and instead of getting rid of the problem, they decided to avoid it and decided to put me in a different department and make me work instead of 1:30-10pm to 3:30pm-2am. The production department supervisor approved me to work 1:30-12 (still had to be 10 hrs instead of 8) but my supervisor didn't think that it was fair and pulled me into HR and told them that I should not be allowed to work that shift and they agreed and changed it.
    When I applied for this job I did hear a lot of terrible things about this company but its different for every person but I see first hand that this company does not care about their employees and only about getting their numbers. I want to leave there but I do not have reliable transportation to work elsewhere. I just don't know what to do. An employee over heard me talking about the sexual harassment complaints and 2 of the guys found out before HR even spoke to them and they are starring at me giving me dirty looks and after my shift ended they were outside saying that I'm a snitch and that they will bend me over and $$!#/\*£((((\/. I am going to let HR know but like I said I don't think that they care.

  21. I am currently working at a company that decided that they did not want to have anyone in my department under their company's name. They have hired a temp agency which I signed with to continue working there. Now they are asking for a letter of resignation. It's a bit confusing cause to me a letter of resignation letter mean you quit the job and will no longer be working there but I will be but under a temp agency that the company hired. Do you think I should write the letter? Please help