Employers are increasingly complaining of employees “ghosting” or leaving suddenly without notice. Temple Law Professor and author Brishen Rogers correctly pointed out on Twitter that employee ghosting is protected the by the 13th Amendment prohibition of slavery. Other commentators have pointed out that employers have been “ghosting” employees for many years and that some turnabout is to be expected as unemployment declines.
Employee “ghosting” is also the flip side of employment at-will. Employers are free to fire you at any time, but you are free to quit your job at any time without notice.
The concept of giving notice before quitting isn’t rooted in any legal requirement. But giving notice before leaving a job can give employees some legal benefits. Providing written notice can provide more protections to employees if done correctly.
In Nebraska, if you quit your job you have to prove you had good cause for the quit to get full unemployment benefits, whereas if you are fired your employer has to prove you committed misconduct in connection with your employment to deny you full benefits. Often when an employee gives two weeks’ notice, an employer will have them stop working before the two week notice period ends. In this situation an employee, for the purposes of unemployment benefits, has been fired. So unless the employer can prove the employee committed some misconduct, then they will receive full unemployment benefits.
Putting notice in writing can be helpful because it explains why you are leaving. Under Nebraska law, there are several reasons deemed by good cause for leaving. Having one of those reasons in a letter could help you receive unemployment benefits sooner.
I recently had an employee who was asked to submit a resignation letter due to alleged concerns about her job performance. My client was smart enough to write down that she would retract her resignation if performance improved. My client ended up winning her unemployment appeal due in part to that letter as it wasn’t clear that she really intended to resign.
Other employment laws
Written notice can also help in other cases. If an employee resigns due to workplace harassment, written notice of a quit would put an employer on notice of the harassment if it wasn’t done so already. Adding in that the resignation would be retracted if the harassment was addressed would also help.
A written notice that an employee is quitting because of a medical condition could prompt an attempt to accommodate that condition under the Americans with Disabilities Act. I have seen written notice of quits because of medical conditions be helpful in winning benefits in workers’ compensation cases as well.
Giving notice is also helpful to an employee quits a new job for a new job that falls through. Courtesy can help an employee maintain a relationship with an employer and make it easier for an employee to go back to a job.