2 weeks notice; hairstyle protections; and Abandoned items

Pay transparency

After an ex-employees 2 weeks notice they left personal items at the office? What do I do? Can I toss them if they don’t pick them up?

The legal side of things: Your state may have laws that dictate what you’re permitted to do with “abandoned” property, but in practicality there’s rarely a need to go down that complicated path.

Now for the human approach: If they gave you their 2 week notice its only polite to help them out. You should always start with letting the ex-employee know that something was left behind as soon as you notice it. You’ve got their contact information, so a phone call, text message, or email is all that’s needed. Most of the time it simply slipped their mind and they’ll arrange a way to retrieve the items ASAP.

But what happens when you can’t get a hold of them? Or they say they’re coming to pick things up but they never show? This is where practical solutions come into play.

If you’re waiting for them to pick up the snacks they left in their locker and it’s been a few weeks, you’re probably safe to throw the snacks out.

If they left a sweater and you know they’re close friends with another employee, you can allow that employee to bring the sweater to the former employee the next time they get together.

Our guidance is a little different if the items left are valuable (jewelry, credit cards, a purse, etc.). In that case, we don’t recommend ever getting rid of them, or entrusting them to someone else to take care of returning the items.

Use the contact information you have to arrange a time for the employee to pick up their items, or other arrangement. Be sure you are documenting each step you take in trying to take care of this.

If this doesn’t yield results, we recommend being proactive about the item’s return. Reach out in writing one last time and let the former employee know that if you don’t hear from them by a certain date you will be mailing the items back to them. In this communication, include the address you have on file for them.

Is it okay to have a policy that prohibits certain hairstyles or colors?


The legal side of things: Tread lightly when it comes to restricting the kind of hairstyles your employees can have. The CROWN (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) Act may not be federal law (yet), but many states and cities have passed their own version of the law. The Act prohibits discrimination based on traits historically associated with race, such as hair texture and protective hairstyles.

Even if the CROWN Act doesn’t apply, restricting certain hairstyles can be a slippery slope. What might seem like a straightforward policy meant to enforce a “professional” appearance can actually lead to a discrimination claim. If you’re going to enforce a grooming policy, it should have a valid, non-discriminatory business related reason and be applied consistently to all employees.

A recent example we gave is requiring an employee to dye their naturally occurring gray hair while allowing younger employees to dye their hair gray because it’s trendy. Gray hair may be connected to age, and if someone makes an age discrimination claim, you don’t want them to be able to point out that they were encouraged to dye their hair in order to fit into the workplace.

Now for the human approach: As long as they aren't discriminatory, dress code policies (which hairstyle/color fall into) are really up to your discretion.

You may want to think about how these policies can impact your hiring process. There’s no doubt that strict dress code policies are gradually fading. We’re seeing more and more employers that are okay with bright colored hair, tattoos, or casual clothing and we’ve spoken to many members that have lost out on an otherwise great candidate because they had purple streaks in their hair or nose piercing.

Again, your policies are up to you and what is best for your practice. But if you find yourself in a situation where a policy may cost you a great employee, or you keep running into the same dress code issues over and over, it can be helpful to take some time to revisit the policy to make sure it’s still working for you.

One of my employees just put in their two week notice. Am I required to let them finish out the two weeks? I’d rather they left right away.


The legal side of things: Unless you have a contract with this employee or a handbook policy that says otherwise, you’re not legally obligated to keep them on for the full two weeks.

If CEDR didn’t help you write your handbook, it’s a good idea to review your handbook policies to make sure there’s nothing that inadvertently altered the employee’s at-will status.

Now for the human approach: Since there’s no legal obligation to let the employee finish out their time, it comes down to practical business needs.

If this is a great employee who is leaving on good terms, and who you continue to trust, it can be highly beneficial to have them work out their notice period so your productivity stays up and so they can train others and/or hand off work to others in a meaningful way.

In other cases, the departing employee may be completely checked out and not contributing to your team in any productive way during their remaining time. Or, you may have concerns about them having access to your systems.

If you don’t want them sticking around, you are able to accept their resignation early. Be sure to document this in a confirmation of resignation letter so it’s clear that it was their choice to leave.

We also recommend that you consider paying the e employee out for their original notice period. Meaning, if they gave you a 2 weeks notice, pay them out through the end of that 2 week period.

There are several reasons for doing this. It can ease any tension the employee may have about being “let go” early. It avoids them trying to call it a termination and seeking unemployment. And, it doesn’t discourage others on your team from providing notice.

Jun 13, 2023

Friendly Disclaimer: This information is general in nature and is not intended to provide legal advice or replace individual guidance about a specific issue with an attorney or HR expert. The information on this page is general human resources guidance based on applicable local, state and/or federal U.S. employment law that is believed to be current as of the date of publication. Note that CEDR is not a law firm, and as the law is always changing, you should consult with a qualified attorney or HR expert who is familiar with all of the facts of your situation before making a decision about any human resources or employment law matter.

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