Arizona Employment Law: Two Weeks’ Notice and Severance Agreements
The end of an employment situation can be tricky for both the employer and the employee. An employee that is quitting is often worried that he/she will destroy a valuable relationship that he/she may need to rely on the future. An employer may be worried that the employee will be disgruntled and cause the employer unnecessary time and cost by bringing claims after being fired. These concerns are legitimate and they often raise the following two questions: 1) As an employee, am I required in Arizona to give two weeks’ notice before I quit? 2) As an employer, am I required in Arizona to offer a severance agreement to an employee when I fire him/her?
When analyzing these questions, it is first important to remember that Arizona is an at-will employment state which means an employee may quit or be fired at any time unless doing so would specifically violate a law. These employees are called private sector employees. Some employees are employed by governmental entities which have their own policies and procedures as to how and when an employee may quit or be fired. These are called public sector employees. Other employees and employers enter contracts for a period of time (i.e. two years). This means the employment relationship is no longer at-will, it is contractual. When dealing with contractual employees, it is important to remember that in addition to any applicable state or federal laws governing the employment relationship, the contract will likely outline terms and conditions of employment, as well as termination. Because of this, before answering the two questions above, it is important to determine the type of employment relationship that exists, and what terms and conditions apply to that employment relationship. This blog addresses specifically at-will employment relationships.
Two Weeks’ Notice Requirement:
The short answer is that an at-will employee is not required to provide two weeks’ notice before quitting. Even where there is an offer letter or employee manual that requests that an employee gives two weeks’ notice before leaving, this does not change the at-will status of the employee. An employer may attempt to encourage an at-will employee to give two weeks’ notice before quitting by offering the employee accrued paid-time-off or some other benefit if the employee adheres to the policy. This is appropriate, however, an employee can choose to forego that benefit if they wish to quit immediately rather than give two weeks’ notice.
As a practical matter, an at-will employee may provide two weeks’ notice as a courtesy to the employer. Giving two weeks’ notice is especially important if an employee desires to maintain a favorable relationship with the employer for future opportunities. This two weeks’ notice allows the employer time to start the hiring process for your position and perhaps even allow time for you to train a new employee.
The short answer is that an employer has no obligation to provide a severance agreement to an employee upon termination. At the end of an employment relationship, an employer must only ensure that they are not violating an applicable law when deciding to terminate an employee.
An employer may offer severance to an employee for two reasons: 1) to limit the employer’s liability for any future claims that an employee may bring against the employer, 2) to acknowledge the employee’s contribution to the employer and to assist the employee with his/her transition to finding a new job. Sometimes, offering severance can be a mixture of both reasons. Some employers provide severance as a matter of course to simply remove the possibility that the employee will bring a lawsuit against them (whether the employer believes that the employee has any legitimate cause to do so) because of the time and expense to defend claims. This is an internal business decision for each employer and one that takes careful consideration and planning.
If you have questions about whether two weeks’ notice is appropriate in your circumstances or whether you should provide an employee with a severance agreement upon termination, then please contact Mesa employment lawyer Brad Denton at Denton Peterson, PC to assist you.