New Year, New Job - An Employment Law Perspective
Resolve to quit this year? I have advised many employees who are in a bad work situation, or have found a better job or business opportunity, and are ready to resign. Before you throw in the towel, here are a few key legal issues to consider:
Could this be a constructive dismissal?
If you are quitting, not by choice, but because of fundamental changes to your job to which you did not agree, this could be a constructive dismissal. If you have no choice but to quit because of a hostile or intolerable work environment, this could be a constructive dismissal. The threshold is pretty high - the changes have to be significant. It can be hard to prove that an environment is so hostile that you had to quit.
If it is a constructive dismissal, even though you are quitting, you might be entitled to severance pay. If you think a constructive dismissal is forcing you to quit, I recommend that you get legal advice before you hand in your resignation letter.
How much notice do I need to give?
I get this question a lot. The first thing I do is look at the written employment contract (if there is one). Some employment contracts specify the amount of resignation notice that the employee has to provide. If there is nothing in the contract, then I look at employer policies (if there are any). If there is a contract or employer policy that states the amount of resignation notice they expect, it is usually safe for an employee to follow that.
If there is no contract or policy, I explore with my client what is reasonable in the circumstances of their job. How difficult will it be for the employer to transition their work? 2 weeks notice is enough in many situations, but in some cases, less or more notice might be appropriate. It is also worth considering whether there might be some strategic advantage to providing a longer period of notice.
Can I take customers or company information with me?
This is a hot button issue for employers. If you are thinking about secretly copying or taking information, the fact that you are hiding it is a sign that it is probably a bad idea. You owe your current employer a duty of loyalty while you are still employed, and you may have duties that extend even after you have left. Some employment contracts contain "non-solicitation" or "non-competition" restrictions that limit what you can do for a period of time after you leave. These may or may not be legally enforceable. If you have this type of contract, or if you plan to take customers or company information, I strongly recommend getting legal advice about your rights and obligations, and the potential consequences.
Timing is important
There is rarely a perfect time to make a change, but it is important to consider what is on the horizon. Is there a bonus payment coming up? If it is a matter of a short delay, you may be better to wait until you have that money in your account before you resign.
Leaving on a good note
While the "take this job and shove it" approach can be appealing, it is not one that I recommend. It is always better to leave on a good note if you can. If you are feeling emotional, which is normal, it can help to put together a written resignation letter. Email is fine, but you should take time to carefully consider the wording and message that you are sending.
Or ignore all of the above and maybe you can be the star of the next funny quit video compilation on YouTube:
(Author has no connection to YouTube video creator, just googled funny quit videos, found this and laughed).
This blog is not intended to serve as legal advice, and only provides general information. Every situation must be considered on its own facts.
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