What happens if you quit without notice in an “at will” employment relationship?

UPDATED: Oct 14, 2010

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What happens if you quit without notice in an “at will” employment relationship?

In 2005, I was hired by Nike as a retail associate. Like most 9-to-5 retail jobs, in their handbook, they stated that employment was at will, and could be terminated by either the employer or the employee, with or without reason, and with or without notice. In 2009, I quit, giving 3 days notice. In 2010, I reapplied, but was informed that because I gave less than 2 weeks notice, I was ineligible for re-employment. It seems as though I am being punished for exercising my right to employment at will. Is this a legitimate matter that I can further pursue?

Asked on October 14, 2010 under Employment Labor Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

No, you unfortunately do not have any recourse. You have a right to quit at will without notice; and Nike, because this is employment at will, has a right to not hire you for any reason that is not illegal. The only illegal reasons are illegal discrimination (e.g. against a race, religion, sex, age over 40, or disability) or retaliation against you for having filed a protected complaint (like a wage and hour complaint). Otherwise, they can decide for any reason to not hire you, and that includes feeling that it's a bad risk to hire someone who's already quit once, and that without notice. It's not that you're being punished for having exercised your right to leave employment at will--it's that you have no guaranteed right to employment with Nike or any other company, and the business can decide for itself who to hire.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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