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Questions about Quitting Without Notice

Most states in the United States follow the doctrine of “employment at-will”, which allows employers to terminate employees at their discretion, barring a few exceptions such as illegal discrimination. This also allows employees to terminate their employment without notice. The law grants employees certain rights such as receiving remaining vacation, annual leave, and personal days’ pay as part of the employee’s wages upon termination — whether voluntary or involuntary. Employees are also allowed to continue their health benefits at their own cost for up to 18 months after quitting. Understanding the law and rights granted helps both employers and employees in situations involving quitting without notice.

If the company policy is to pay in 15-minute increments, are we obligated to pay by the minute if an employee quits?

If you can establish that the employee was not punching out to defraud, it is likely you would have a clear case to not pay extra time. Also, while you are not obliged to pay by the minute, a policy that rounds down may be challenged by the employee. Employers are required to ensure that working time is “averaged out” when rounding down the work time. For this, you may ensure that the rounding up is in favor of the employee at starting time and rounding down is in favor of the employer at ending time. You may also round up or down based on the increment. For example, if an employee reports to work at 9:05 am, he would be paid for work starting at 9 am, whereas an employee reporting at 9:08 am will be paid for work starting at 9:15 am.

Our company’s book-keeper quit without notice and proceeded to write herself two checks. Can I pursue criminal charges for writing and cashing these unauthorized checks?

An employee who resigns does not have the authorization to write checks. Any payroll or vacation time the employee is due will not be paid to the employee until the next payroll date, after the employee quits. In such a situation, you would want to call her and ask her to return the checks or possibly even file a charge against her for theft.

As far as civil remedies, the only one available to you in this particular case is if these checks cause you to be overdrawn in your accounts. In that case, you may be able to pursue damages in a small claims court.

One of the employees quit without notice and has not returned several items issued to him. Is it legal to deduct the cost of missing items from the employee's final pay check?

The law clearly defines when an employer may withhold or deduct wages from an employee’s paycheck under the California Labor Code. It states these circumstances are: “(1) when required or empowered to do so by state or federal law, or (2) when a deduction is expressly authorized in writing by the employee to cover insurance premiums, benefit plan contributions or other deductions not amounting to a rebate on the employee’s wages, or (3) when a deduction to cover health, welfare, or pension contributions is expressly authorized by a wage or a collective bargaining agreement.” You have the option of filing criminal charges against him or filing a suit in the small claims court for the value of the equipment.

Will my unemployment benefits be affected if I quit without a 30-day notice despite signing a contract requiring such notice?

Generally, unemployment benefits are not available to those quitting voluntarily. The 30-day notice period would not make a difference in the matter. Also, in any conflict between a state law and a company contract, the state law would prevail. The only exception to this rule would be if the contract expressly states the employee is waiving his or her rights under the state law. You may want to see an attorney to examine the exact words in the contract.

My nanny, who signed a one-year contract with me, quit without notice. Can I sue for the emergency childcare I have had to get in order to keep my job?

If there is a violation of an employment contract, you may possibly be able to sue for breach of contract. The court will examine and award reasonable damages. Typically, you will be need to allay the damages in such a situation. In other words, you will not be able to claim damages for enrolling your child in the most expensive childcare program.

An employee can quit without notice and leave an employer in a situation with questions regarding benefits and responsibilities. Likewise, an employee may be in the situation of quitting without notice and wonder what rights apply, given such issues as wages and health insurance.
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