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, February 14, 2014

They Aren't Going To Beg You To Stay (So Don't Quit Unless You Mean It)

One of the things that makes me shake my head in my law practice is when people tell me that they either quit or discussed possibly quitting, then tried to take it back. I shake my head, because they're almost always contacting me because they're suddenly unemployed.

Many employees think they're indispensable. Whether they've been with the company a long time, are high-producing sales people, or just know where the bodies are buried, lots of employees quit or threaten to quit with the secret belief that their employer can't live without them. That the boss will beg them to stay.

That isn't going to happen. Oh, sure, there are rare cases where a top employee puts in a resignation and the boss rips it up and says they aren't accepting it. They may be offered more money. That's rare. You're more likely to get hit by lightning. It isn't going to happen to you. With unemployment what it is, there are probably people younger (or older and more qualified), better educated, and with less attitude just waiting to take your job. Plus, if you've shown your unhappiness then they may celebrate your departure.

Here are 9 things you need to know about quitting:

  • Notice: While you're expected to give notice, 2 weeks or more depending on your industry, your boss may well say you should leave now. While this isn't very classy, unless you have a contract saying otherwise, they can boot you the second you hand in your notice. Be ready for it. If this happens, ask your new employer (because I know you're not dumb enough to quit without having a job lined up, right?) if you can start earlier. Or take a much-needed vacation.
  • Vacation: Speaking of vacation, don't put in notice and expect to take your paid vacation during the notice period. It isn't going to happen. Either take the vacation before you quit or consider it lost. Some employers pay it out when you leave if you didn't take it but many do not. Your state law may or may not help you.
  • Eligible for rehire: If you quit without notice, you're probably listed as ineligible for rehire. That can come back to bite you years later. Let's say you work for a company that gets a big contract. Surprise! It's your former employer or a company that ate your former employer. They may check you out and say you aren't allowed to work on their contract. You can lose your job even though you've been working for years with no problems. Give notice unless you're in physical danger from staying.
  • References: Know what the company policy is on references before you go. If they only give neutral references (dates of employment, job title) then you may want to ask for a reference letter from a supervisor or two. That's all the more reason to leave on good terms. If you left on bad terms, you'd better hope they only give neutral references. Otherwise, assume they'll trash you. There are reference checking companies you can hire to find out what they're saying about you if you think they're giving out false information. Don't ask me to recommend any, since I've gotten complaints about every one I've recommended over the years, along with reports of extreme satisfaction, so I don't recommend anyone anymore.
  • Quitting without quitting: If you ask your employer to talk about severance, they think you quit. If you no-show, they think you quit. If you clear out your office right before a vacation or medical leave, they think you quit. If you say that, unless they do x, y or z, you will have to quit, they think you quit. If they catch you looking at Monster.com, sending out resumes or get a call about a reference, they think you quit. If you say that you can no longer concentrate or do any work until they meet your demands, they think you quit. Once they think you quit, you're gone. Don't make them think you quit if you don't intend to quit.
  • Forced quitting: If your employer tells you that you have to quit, they're lying. Don't quit unless you are ready to quit, or are offered something like severance that makes quitting worth your while. Your employer can't make you quit.
  • Promises, promises: If your employer does beg you to stay, making promises that things will be better, more money will be earned or whatever, make them put it in writing. Get a contract. If they won't put it in writing, take the other job. Bosses are like spouses - they rarely change.
  • Do I have a case?: Don't assume you have a lawsuit against an employer just because it was so awful you quit. Do your homework. Gather your evidence of discrimination, FMLA interference, whistleblower retaliation or whatever claim you think you have. Make sure you document everything and talk to an employment lawyer in your state before you decide.
  • No take-backs: If you quit and then try to take it back, they don't have to let you (and they probably won't). If they let you stay, it will only be until they find a replacement. Don't quit unless you're sure. In rare cases, people who resign for another job that falls through are taken back with open arms. More likely, once they know you're looking, you're gone.

Discrimination against the unemployed is legal in most states, so don't quit unless you have something else lined up. No matter how stressful it is at work, it's probably going to be more stressful to be unemployed for months (or years). Unless you're so wealthy you can live without your work income for at least a year, then wait until you have a safe landing before you quit.

They aren't going to beg you to stay. Trust me on this.


  1. You are right on all counts. My heart sinks when someone calls me and tells me they already quit, and now want to get unemployment, file a constructive discharge case, seek severance(!), etc. The physical danger caveat is of course the exception, as well as possibly unbearable emotional distress/loss of mental health.

  2. I absolutely subscribe to your opinions on why employees should think twice before leaving an employer. These are hard truths but truths nonetheless. But attrition and turnover is a genuine problem for employers and if they find themselves having big numbers, then they too are in trouble, and they should definitely rethink the way on how they handle their human resources. Employing new strategies that would benefit all parties would be very ideal, but if they can't then they should employ a new system, probably allowing for flexible employment. Thank you for this gem of an article and I hope I can read more from you soon!

    Kevin Burr @ BarracudaStaffing.com

  3. The employee who quits is normally angry at there supervisor and owner of the company, The normal employ is not away of all the coworkers they are hurting,,
    I have a good employee quit over an email last Sunday and I was devastated , She was a good employee, very fast, loyal, honest,, but she changed a lot during the last few months,, she became aggressive and cocky, I do not sure if she ever came back or would i hire her again,,, I blow up can lead to many blowups Steve


I appreciate your comments and general questions but this isn't the place to ask confidential legal questions. If you need an employee-side employment lawyer, try http://exchange.nela.org/findalawyer to locate one in your state.