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

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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

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 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.


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