Pope Benedict XVI recently did something no pontiff has done for 600 hundred years: He resigned. And when he did, he provided the Catholic Church with only two weeks’ notice of his departure.
Employees often leave their employer with little or no notice. This can leave the organization in a lurch, particularly if the employee holds a key position, has a unique skill set, or has institutional knowledge others lack.
Employers sometimes ask whether they can require their employees to give advance notice before they quit. But perhaps the more-important question is: Do you really want to?
Absent an agreement to the contrary, employment in Kansas is at will. This means that either the employer or the employee can end the employment relationship at any time, for any or no reason, with or without notice. Employers are typically happy about this arrangement.
So think twice and get legal counsel before imposing a rule requiring employees to give two weeks or other advance notice of resignation, as this may trigger a reciprocal obligation to pay employees for the same notice period when you let them go, or otherwise alter the at-will nature of the relationship. If you do decide to enter into a contract with an executive or other key employee that requires advance notice of resignation, consider whether and how you will enforce the provision if the employee welches on the deal. Remember that the Kansas Wage Payment Act (KWPA) prohibits withholding an employee’s earned wages as a set off or credit toward other debts the employee may owe.
There are lawful and effective ways to incentivize even rank-and-file employees to provide advance notice before quitting. One common technique is to impose a notice requirement as a condition to earning a benefit or bonus upon separation of employment. For example, you could include a provision in your vacation or paid time off (PTO) policy that says an employee who quits is not entitled to payment for unused accrued vacation or PTO unless the employee gives two weeks’ advance notice.
But take care and check with a lawyer to ensure that any such policy is carefully constructed to comply with the KWPA. While the earning of a wage can be subject to a valid condition precedent, a wage that has already been earned cannot be subject to forfeiture based on a condition subsequent. Discerning the difference can be tricky. And if you’re wrong, a judge will not be as forgiving as the Pope.