How to Handle an Employee Giving 2 Weeksâ Notice
Itâs 4:30 on a Friday afternoon, and one of your employees knocks on your door asking to come in. Theyâre avoiding eye contact, theyâre fidgety, nervousâŚ This canât be good news. You imagine accidentally shredded payroll reports, stolen laptops full of patient information, or something equally catastrophic. But when the employee tells you whatâs going on, itâs the last thing you expected: Theyâre putting in their 2 weeksâ notice. Now what do you do?
Before you can decide, youâll need to know what your options are. In any âat-willâ employment arrangement, you can let an employee go at any time for any reason thatâs not unlawful (although there are factors you should consider first), and the employee can also quit at any time, with notice or not. At-will employment is the law of the land in 49 of 50 states, so weâll assume your employee in question is probably at-willâunless youâve done something to change that status, which weâll discuss a bit later.
In most cases, you can do 1 of 3 things when an employee tells you theyâre going to quit:
- Let the employee finish out their time.
- Send the employee home immediately.
- Send the employee home immediately, but continue paying them until their original quit date.
This is a decision youâll often need to make right there on the spot, so it helps to know the pros and cons of each option beforehand.
Option #1: Let the employee finish out their time.
If you have a great relationship with the employee and there are no hard feelings over their quitting, having them continue working for a few weeks could be a godsend. Youâll have time to prepare, and the employee can help train their replacement and give a detailed explanation of their status on any projects, including advice on how to move them forward.
That time can be a double-edged sword, however. Keep in mind that even the BEST employees are liable to start âphoning it inâ to some extent as they get closer and closer to their last day, so you might not be getting the same high-quality performance out of your employee during their last few weeks. Mentally, theyâre already moving on.
But if you truly feel that your soon-to-be-former employee can perform well during their final weeks at your practice, letting them stay and ease the transition is a viable choice.
Option #2: Send the employee home immediately.
An employee who is working on borrowed time and no longer committed to your practice is a variable you canât fully control, so you may feel that just removing them is the safer choice. Again, you arenât required to let an at-will employee remain at their job for any length of time, whether they gave 2 daysâ notice or 2 weeksâ.
The biggest downside to letting the employee go right away is obvious: Youâll now have an unstaffed position, before youâve been able to make plans to fill it. This is going to cause some stress among your staff, and you are likely to see office morale take a hit, at least in the short-term.
Then thereâs the question of unemployment benefits. By asking an employee who gave notice to leave right away, you may, in rare circumstances, risk accidentally transforming a voluntary quit into an involuntary termination (without cause). In some states, the employee may be able to claim unemployment for those two weeks. However, generally, as long as the notice was two weeks or less, this will not trigger unemployment benefit eligibility. Â Not paying wages in exchange for the courtesy of givingÂ the standard two weeks’ notice, however, may encourage other employees not to give you any notice next time.
Option #3: Send the employee home immediately, but pay out the two weeks.
This is sometimes your best option if you donât want the employee to finish out their time. Perhaps you know theyâve been dissatisfied for a while, and you just donât trust them to care about this job now that they have another one. This option may avoid further discontent: youâre paying out their time, while also limiting your risk.
You should also consider whether you have in any way altered the at-will status of your employment relationship with this employee, whether intentionally or unintentionally, as that could change your obligations. If you have an employment contract in place, you may have limited options.
Even without an employment contract, you should check your employee handbook for ways you might have inadvertently changed the employeeâs at-will status. Do you state anywhere that notice before quitting is required for any reason? Unless you have very careful at-will disclaimers in placeâwhich you shouldâpolicies like this are often viewed as an implied guarantee of employment for the length of that notice, which can also cause a loss of at-will status.
Whatâs the final word on that final two weeks?
If you like option 2 or 3 best, double-checking on at-will status before sending an employee on their way with their notice paid out is critically important. If you let go of someone who is not at-will, even just two weeks early, you could end up dealing with a wrongful termination complaint.
And one last cautionâas always, be sure to treat similarly situated employees in consistent ways. Choosing an early acceptance of resignation from only your pregnant employee (or only your black employee, or only an employee who recently requested a medical accommodation, to name just a few variations) when youâve never done this before could be problematic, and it may even expose you to a discrimination claim.
Otherwise, though, sending a departing employee home with their notice time paid allows you to avoid the trouble an iffy employee could cause on the way out, intentionally or not. Basically, youâre paying the employee to stay home instead of coming in to work for you. It isnât ideal, but in some situations, itâs your safest option.