I am a full time employee, and have been working for several months. I recently turned in my resignation with a two week notice.

It was straight-forwardly explained and gracefully accepted.

Later HR informed me I had signed an offer letter agreeing to give 30 days notice and asked me to stay on for the term. I have verified this.

However, this seems wrong to me because:

  1. 2 weeks is standard practice, in my past experience.
  2. This is not a point that would have been negotiable at offer time. Imagine how that conversation would go?
  3. I've seen the company dismiss more than one person "without cause" (that is, no hideous ethical/legal violations) and give them no notice at all.

I am trying to decide for myself where I stand on this ethically. Would appreciate your thoughts here. What would you do?

I would also like to know where I stand legally. Is this enforceable? What sort of action might I expect if I refuse?

Thanks for your consideration.

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    HR informed me I had signed an offer letter agreeing to give 30 days notice. Verify this. If it's in the contract then it's in the contract and you'll have to deal with it. – Bmo Oct 1 '14 at 19:53
  • Do you have a contract? Did you ask HR for a copy of this letter? They can not force you to stay but they may be able to get a fee from you. Employement contracts are often one sided protecting the employer far more than the employee. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Oct 1 '14 at 19:55
  • You should check with an attorney, but in most states (US of course) an employment offer is not a binding contract. If this is the case in your state, then you are under no obligation to adhere to it. – Joel Etherton Oct 1 '14 at 20:01
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    Are you at all concerned with using anyone here as a reference in the future? Even if you have the legal right to walk away in spite of what you signed, they don't have to give you a good reference. Not honoring the documents you yourself signed would give them good reason to not give you a good reference. – corsiKa Oct 1 '14 at 20:29

If you feel two weeks is standard, then the 30 day notice clause should have stuck out a little more. You signed it. It's not excessive, unethical or illegal but check with a lawyer if you think you have a case.

A company can dismiss someone without notice, but are you positive those people weren't given some sort of severance pay? It could possibly equal 30 days. Because of sensitive information or the nature of the job, it is common to have people leave the job immediately when they are let go by a company. This avoids a lot of drama.

It doesn't sound like you're going to get a very good reference from this company, but I don't suggest breaking this contract as a good idea. Be honest with your next employer if you promised them to start in two weeks.


Assuming you are in the USA you likely are employed on an "at will" basis.

This means an employee can be dismissed for any reason at any time and an employee can quit for any reason at any time. However restrictions apply, such as discrimination etc. Read the article for all the details.

In addition, particular to your situation, since you apparently signed a statement where you have to give 30 days notice:

most states adhere to the general principle that employer and employee may contract for the dismissal protection they choose

Since it appears your employer has retained the right to fire you any time but you have to give 30 days notice you may have a good case considering it is unfair, however a lawyer would be much better suited to advice you.

Your State may have a lawyer referral service, which can be very helpful.

  • 1
    in a number of "at-will" states even with contracts that specifically require a notice period they've been deemed unlawful. (basically the contract conflicts what the law says and therefore is null and void) as you said, best bet is talk to a lawyer. – Eric J Fisher Oct 1 '14 at 20:32

Ask to see the offer letter. Read the entire letter as a matter of due diligence. If the letter says you have to give a month's notice before you take off, then that's the way the cookie crumbles. If you feel that it's worth it as a matter of your principles to burn up your bridges over an extra two weeks, then do what your heart tells you.

Refer to HR for the penalties that you may accrue to you for giving notice in a way that's not acceptable to the company. We live under the rule of law, so contracts including employment contracts are fully enforceable as long as their terms don't violate existing law. It is unlikely but possible that the offer letter says a month and the employee manual says two weeks. In which case, it would probably take a lawyer to sort out which document is considered definitive.

  • it's also note worthy, in many 'at-will' states required notice periods have been considered to be violating the law. (not all), so probably best he just ask a local lawyer. – Eric J Fisher Oct 1 '14 at 20:35
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    @RualStorge Even if the OP springs for a lawyer and let's say, the contractual notice period does not pass legal muster in court, the OP wins the battle but could end up losing the war, as he is burning his bridges over an extra two weeks. Speaking for me,myself and I, the three of us wouldn't fight over an extra two weeks but that's our personal choice :) – Vietnhi Phuvan Oct 1 '14 at 20:42
  • @VietnhiPhunvan Absolutely, the concern here is if he said two weeks to the new employer he has to choose, risk the new opportunity or risk burning a bridge with the old employer. He should probably let both sides know what's up. If either party is understanding than no problem, but if both sides stance is "we had an agreement" well they must decide what's worse, potentially losing a job, or potentially burning a bridge? – Eric J Fisher Oct 1 '14 at 20:45
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    @RualStorge Let's be optimistic and hope that both employers show flexibility. Otherwise, the OP is in an interesting predicament - The OP would have to weigh for himself letting the bridges burn against the penalties for leaving. – Vietnhi Phuvan Oct 1 '14 at 20:57

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