Employee Announces He’s Leaving

Question:

An employee made a general announcement to several co-workers that he was going to take another position. One or more of the co-workers approached a supervisor with that information. The supervisor then confronted the employee with the information and asked for a letter of resignation. The employee hedged and said he was not ready to give notice yet. The supervisor pressed for an answer and asked if the company should start searching for a replacement. The employee said yes, you can start looking for a replacement. Is that considered a verbal resignation? The supervisor told the employee several times that the company wants a letter of resignation in writing. We have since found a suitable replacement and want to relieve the employee of his duties and move forward with the new employee. Do we need to do anything else prior to ending the employment? Thank you.

Signed,

What’s Required?


Answer:

Dear What’s Required?:

A written resignation is not required to quit a job. Your question is a bit more complicated: Can an employer when he has learned an employee, who has announced he is leaving but does not specify a date and who has told his supervisor that the a replacement may be gotten, discharge him once a replacement is available?

You say you want to relieve this employee of his duty now that a replacement is available. This raises another question: If the employee does not wish to leave on the date you specify, would that be interpreted as firing him? This a question of both an ethical and legal nature. Ethical in that your employer wants to do what is right in light of the employee’s exit–does he have another job and is it a good time for him to depart? Ethical in that the employee has given the go-ahead to get a replacement, and therefore should not prevent the employer from replacing him. Legal in that your state may have laws that specify if and when a replacement is by resignation or firing. Many states have no laws to prevent an employer from firing for a good reason or no reason; however, the employer still has an ethical responsibility to do what is best for employee and the company. In light of these issues, would it not be wise to have a conference with the employee and to get an agreement on when he is to be replaced? Possibly, it would be good to have him stay on for a short time to train his replacement. Also, if this cannot be amicably arranged, would it not be wise to confer with your state’s Department of Labor and to get in writing regulations and advice that pertain to discharging an employee?

I assume that your employer has only a few employees and that you are non-union. Employers of large numbers have Human Resource personnel and have established policies and practices on such matters. Might it be helpful to consult other organizations in your locale? Put your faith in straight talk with this employee and to do what is reasonable and possible to make his exit pleasant. That kind of behavior will be good for both the employee and for the morale of employees who are not leaving. That is the spirit of what I refer to as WEGO at work. Please let us know what you do?

William Gorden