I'm a US citizen working for a top technology company in the Valley in California. Long story short, I've been working in a completely chaotic and toxic environment and am about ready to state my intent to resign at a future date. I don't want to waste any more time here than I already have, so I want to be out on the exact day that I receive my bonus. I'm thinking of informing my boss a month of advance, to give him and myself adequate time to transition out. The concern here is that I don't want to be "let go" earlier than my intended departure date. I'm thinking that it's not likely to happen, but I want to prepare myself for the worse, and re-adjust my strategy for how and when to transition out.

So the question is:

Is it legal, or common to be "let go" earlier than your intended departure date? Especially in situations where there is obvious tension between the two parties (employee and boss/management)? I understand that in most states in the US, employment is "at-will", so you can practically be let go for any reason, or not reason at all. But I'm wondering if someone has experienced something like this before, especially those who don't exactly have the best relationship with management.

  • 4
    Is it legal? Almost certainly (though you'd need to talk to a lawyer to determine whether your bonus can be witheld). If you want to protect yourself, wait to put in your notice until after the bonus has been paid. If you think that it is unlikely that this particular company/ boss will terminate you early and you're willing to risk your bonus on that wager, that's your choice. May 24, 2016 at 20:09
  • 5
    If you want to leave anyway is the bonus worth the extra time in a toxic environment. May 24, 2016 at 21:16
  • depends if you want to give them the chance, my last job was toxic, I gave about 2 minutes notice when I quit, I did get a visit from a lawyer a while later but I just laughed in his face and threw his letter in the rubbish unread, never heard from them again.
    – Kilisi
    May 25, 2016 at 5:52

6 Answers 6


Is it legal, or common to be "let go" earlier than your intended departure date?

Yes, it's legal. And while I wouldn't call it "common", I've seen it happen a few times at a few companies. In one of those cases, I know that the departing employee was paid for the remaining two weeks of his notice period, but I don't think there were any pending bonuses involved.

In my experience, some companies conclude that a lame duck employee would be more trouble than he/she is worth, and will have them quickly escorted out of the building.

This may not happen in your case, as it didn't any time I ever left a company myself. But you can't be sure.

If you want to be sure you get your bonus, your best bet is to hand in your notice only after you have received your bonus check. You get to decide if the pain of sticking out the chaotic and toxic environment that long is worth the money in the bonus or not.

  • Getting your bonus may be difficult or impossible if you submit your resignation before you receive it.
    – Eric
    May 25, 2016 at 22:58
  • Yes, but I think it's worth emphasizing. The OP clearly had no idea that companies did this and may brush it aside if he or she does not understand why one should wait until the check is in hand.
    – Eric
    May 26, 2016 at 10:33
  • 3
    Wait til the check is in the bank. I've seen too many people resign, planning on having two weeks only to be immediately escorted out the door as soon
    – DLS3141
    May 26, 2016 at 18:30

Time order

  1. Get bonus
  2. Cash / deposit bonus
  3. Turn in notice

You may even want to make sure the bonus clears
They can issue a stop payment

  • I would add move the deposit to another bank - to be super safe Jul 24, 2018 at 21:07

From what I've seen in tech companies its pretty common, especially if you are not well liked. I wouldn't give notice unless you're ready to walk out the door that day.

You mention a bonus, so I'm assuming you are a lead or in management? I've seen people in that position get walked to the door immediatly because upper management was tired of them anyway and were glad to take over the department. Unless you feel like you have a lot of valuable information or need to complete a critical project and they want you to stay for a few weeks, I wouldn't count on it.

  • 3
    "especially if you are not well liked" -> At my first company it didn't even matter if they loved you - if you put in your notice, they'd walk you out that day.
    – Adam V
    May 24, 2016 at 20:15
  • 4
    @AdamV, I have seen that as well in a place with tight security. As soon as they knew you were leaving, that was the end of it.
    – JPhi1618
    May 24, 2016 at 20:18
  • 1
    Also remember that bonuses are entirely quid pro quo. It benefits you so long as you benefit the company, i.e. you either still work there or remain in some kind of good standing.
    – CKM
    May 24, 2016 at 23:37

If the environment is as toxic as you say, I'd say quite simply that if you give notice before that bonus is in your pocket, you can say good-bye to it. It's of course your decision what is more important to you.

I would recommend checking your contract and give the shortest amount of notice that you are legally allowed to give, the day after that bonus is in your pocket. If you are worried about the company shafting you if you give them a decent amount of notice, then don't give them a decent amount of notice.

  • 4
    In pocket is important. I have heard of people resigning after bonus letter but before it was paid never getting it May 24, 2016 at 21:15

California is an at will employment state. Thus, they can most definitely fire you for almost any reason they want, unless it's because you're in a protected class (e.g. they cannot fire you because of your race).

The only time I was fired "just happened" to be shortly before I would have been entitled to more severance pay and retirement vesting. As such, I recommend that you wait until you've got your bonus deposited in your financial institution before submitting your resignation.

Also, after taking one job, I learned that the guy I replaced had his status changed from "resigned" to "fired for cause" on what was to be his last day on the job anyway. The story was that the boss didn't like something the guy did on his last day and wanted to put a black mark on his record.

  • LOL - That's the "Permanent record" that the grade school principals kept mentioning, I take it? May 24, 2016 at 20:58
  • 1
    Some companies have stated policies stating that if you quit but give notice you can apply there at a later date, but if you're fired then you can never work there again. May 25, 2016 at 1:46
  • This could be a problem as future employers will do employment checks and if the employee thought they left of OK terms, but the employer is telling people they did not there is a problem. Most employers don't want the hassle, but smaller companies are unaware that the 'fired' employee could file a slander suit back on them for mischaracterizing the departure status. Jul 24, 2018 at 21:26

Short answer is yes, they can fire you for looking at them wrong, let alone announcing that you're quitting.

  • 2
    My stock answer is that they can fire you if your socks are untied. May 24, 2016 at 21:22

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