Can a Company Fire You After You Give Notice?

Man leaving office with belongings in a box

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Employees often wonder what can happen after they resign and give their two weeks’ notice to an employer. Can your employer fire you after you quit — and if so, is the company obligated to keep you on the payroll for the duration of your employment?

Knowing what an employer has the legal right to do will help you make an informed decision about whether or not to give notice, and what to do before you resign.

When a Company Can Fire You After You Give Notice

In most cases, an employer can fire you and stop paying you immediately after you give notice. That's because most employees are considered employed at will, which means that the company can terminate you at any time for no reason (with a few exceptions).

Workers with employment contracts or covered by union agreements are generally protected in this situation, as are employees who have experienced discrimination.

Some state laws include exceptions to employment-at-will policies, as well.

Company Policy Regarding Termination and Resignation

In most cases, employers will honor the notice you give them because of concerns about the company's reputation with current and prospective employees. Employers are also cautious about antagonizing departing employees who might retaliate by sharing proprietary information with their competitors.

In addition, employers often want to keep the services provided by departing workers in place as long as possible to avoid disruptions or burdens to other staff. The two weeks of notice gives them time to start interviewing replacements, gather details on any ongoing projects, and transition work over to other employees temporarily.

Check your company's employee handbook for policies about giving notice. In most cases, organizations will honor the stipulations laid out in the manual.

Being Asked to Leave

Sometimes, companies will say that you are no longer needed after the date when you submit your resignation. They aren’t firing you after you quit, but they don’t want or need you to continue working. Typically, they will pay for the time when you would have been working, but they aren't obligated to.

Many employers will stop short of firing you after you resign, because when you're fired, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits, which you might forfeit by quitting. If your soon-to-be former employer opts to “fire” you after you quit, it’s worth filing for unemployment benefits, just in case you qualify for some assistance. (Keep in mind that you may not receive two weeks’ worth of payments, as some states have a waiting period before benefits kick in. For example, New York State requires recipients to serve an unpaid waiting period of one week after filing for unemployment.)

Be Prepared to Leave

Info-graphic leaving place of employment
The Balance

Even though you will most likely not be fired, you should be prepared to leave the premises immediately once you give notice. While most employers will permit you to go back to your desk, and clear your computer and pack your things, they are not obligated to do so. There is a possibility that you will be escorted out of the building without a stop back at your desk.

Just in case this happens, be sure to remove any personal email or documents from your work computer prior to resigning. Clear your browser history and remove any stored passwords. Do the same thing on any mobile device or tablet that you have through work and be prepared to hand it over on the spot.

Keep copies of any materials which you might include in your portfolio or which might be useful in future jobs, since your computer access might be cut off right away. If some of your work for the company is online, take screenshots or save each page as a PDF so that you can include it in your portfolio if your former employer makes changes at a later date.

Make sure you have contact information for any co-workers or clients you want to keep in touch with and pack up any precious personal items, such as photos.

Should You Skip Giving Notice?

Giving two weeks’ notice is the standard practice, and in most cases, providing it helps to ensure a good relationship with an employer. However, there are some good reasons to skip giving notice.

If it's typical for your employer to ask people to leave immediately, and not pay for the two-week period, you could wind up in a tough financial situation. Under these circumstances, you might want to quit without notice.

Before taking this step, consider if you will ever want to use this employer as a reference since this could reflect negatively on you and prevent you from using your manager or any co-workers as a reference.

Your Next Job

Hopefully, the reason you decided to give your two weeks’ notice was that you had a new job lined up. Still, when you leave a company, you want to make sure that you maintain a good relationship with your supervisor and colleagues when you can.

If you are fired after giving your resignation, it can affect your answer to potential employers about why you left the position.

Regardless of the circumstances of your departure, you should make every effort to leave on a positive note and share only the good aspects of your former company with your new colleagues. Remember that you’ll be judged by your behavior. If you speak ill of your former boss or co-workers, then your new team might assume that you were the problem at your old company. Be positive and build trust right from the start. 

The information contained in this article is not legal advice and is not a substitute for such advice. State and federal laws change frequently, and the information in this article may not reflect your own state’s laws or the most recent changes to the law.