Dates are important. For example, an employee’s start date matters for benefits eligibility. Another date that’s important is an employee’s last day with the company. Today’s reader note is focused on the topic.
Hi. I had a quick question that I was wondering if you would have insight on as I could not find a similar situation online. I put in my resignation to my employer on Tuesday and offered my last day to be ten (10) days later.
However, (out of spite) my employer said they would not need me and my last day would be three days after I gave notice. In my official resignation letter, I noted that I offered to stay longer but they declined the offer.
In reply via e-mail, my employer said they would pay me until the last day I gave on my resignation letter but I do not need to come in. When are they expected to give me my final paycheck? Is my last day the day I worked or the day I got paid? I was unclear how that worked. If you had some insight, that would be great! Thank you!!
To help us understand more about resignations and final paychecks, I reached out to Andrea W.S. Paris, an attorney focused on resolving business disputes in California. She’s helped us before on a post about the differences between where employees live and work.
I’m delighted Andrea agreed to share her knowledge with us. Please remember that her comments should not be construed as legal advice or as pertaining to any specific factual situations. If you have detailed questions, they should be addressed directly with your friendly neighborhood labor attorney.
Andrea, we don’t know what the company policy is regarding resignations. But in a general sense, why should employees give the recommended amount of notice?
[Paris] I can only speak to California’s laws on this issue. When the employee is at-will, by definition, either party could terminate the relationship at any time. So, the law here does not require notice by either party. However, giving an employer notice allows the relationship to end amicably and gives the employer the courtesy of planning for an employee’s departure, making sure that someone else knows what is left to do and ensuring that tasks and projects get done once you leave.
On the other hand, an employer who believes that the relationship will end amicably may also give the employee notice and request that an employee stay to assist with the transition for a period of time. But to reiterate, unless there is a written agreement that alters the at-will relationship, there is no requirement for notice.
The reader in this note seems to feel that the employer isn’t having them work their notice out of spite. I’ve worked in industries where this employer’s actions were commonplace (highly competitive industries or positions.) How should an employee interpret not working out their notice?
[Paris] Some employers choose not to have employees work until the end of their notice period for various reasons:
- Concern that the employee may access, copy, and/or take confidential, proprietary, or trade secret information; or
- The perception that employees who have one foot out the door are no longer committed to the company and would therefore be unproductive at work; or
- The negative effect that having the employee continue to work may have on the morale of other employees.
It’s usually not personal but purely a business decision and, in those situations, the employer is not obligated to pay the employee past the last day the employee works.
When is the employee’s last day: their last working day OR the last day they were paid? And why is this important?
[Paris] The employee’s last day is the last day of his/her employment. The reader’s description of the situation is unclear because the employer could have said either: “Your effective termination date is 3 days from today” or “Your effective termination date is in 2 weeks but we ask that you not come into the office after 3 days.” The last day of employment usually triggers requirements related to when the final payment of wages are due and the termination of various benefits.
I know the rules are different in each state about resignation and when final paychecks are issued. Where can an employee find this information?
[Paris] I recommend checking the website of your state’s administrative body that enforces the state’s labor and employment laws.
My thanks to Andrea for sharing her experience with us. Be sure to follow her on Twitter at @AndreaParisLaw and check out her blog. The way an employee leaves the organization is just as important as the welcome they receive on Day One. Even if both the employee and employer are somewhat happy the relationship is ending. That includes making sure a departing employee’s final pay is accurate.
Image compiled by Sharlyn Lauby after speaking at the 2016 SHRM Annual Conference in Washington, DC1