In light of the recent brouhaha over Papa John's founder/CEO's use of the n-word, subsequent resignation, then statement that he regretted resigning, I thought I'd address this issue I encounter frequently: can you rescind your resignation?
The answer, sadly, is probably not. However, it mostly depends on how much your employer wants you to stay.
In general, if you quit in a huff, you're gone. Most employers will grab onto anything they can to get rid of someone they think is disgruntled or, in the case of Mr. Schnatter, someone they think has become a liability. So think twice about even mentioning the thought of resignation.
If you quit, then say you changed your mind, your employer does not have to allow you to rescind your resignation. Here are some mistakes I've seen people make that employers jumped on to claim "you quit."
Let's talk severance: You're having problems at work. You've reported them. When HR asks what you want, you say you want severance. Guess what? You just quit. I find that any mention of severance originating from the employee is frequently deliberately misinterpreted as a resignation. Instead, wait for the employer to bring up severance as a possibility before you try to negotiate that exit package.
If this keeps up, I have to leave: Sure, things are terrible. But once you say that if certain practices continue, you'll have to go, your employer may jump on that as a resignation even if you had no intention of going. Nobody likes an ultimatum.
If I don't get a raise, I'll have to look elsewhere: If you're trying to negotiate a raise, better benefits, or just about anything else, don't threaten to start looking for a job. Too many employers will start looking for your replacement.
Walk out: If you leave work in the middle of a contentious discussion with the boss or a coworker, even if you think you were threatened in some way, many employers will claim you abandoned your position. Obviously, if you're in danger you need to get out of there. But if there is any alternative, such as calmly walking into an area with witnesses, do it. Even if you call management and say you're leaving or have left and they say something vague like, "Do what you need to do," many will claim you quit.
Pack your things: This is truly bogus, because there can be any number of reasons why an employee might pack up some or all of their personal belongings, but I've seen a number of employers claim that packing equals quitting. This is usually a desperate defense raised absent some real reason for a firing. Still, be careful. If you really have decided to redecorate or something benign, make sure your office doesn't look like you moved out (or tell someone in management in writing what you're doing and why).
But I never submitted my resignation letter!: I hear this all the time. You said you were quitting, then realized you didn't have a job lined up. You come back to work and find that your exit has been announced. You don't need a resignation letter to make a resignation official, any more than employers need a termination document to make a firing official (well, except in some states where they do need to put it in writing, but not here in Florida and not in most states).
No matter how upset you are, unless you have another job lined up, I recommend against quitting. I especially recommend against quitting without thinking it through. If you quit, you've done your employer a huge favor and maybe cost yourself some unemployment benefits. Proving constructive discharge is incredibly hard.
Think before you quit.
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.