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Handbook says I'm "At Will" but contract requires I get notice - which governs?

 Provided by:  Jennifer Kirschenbaum, Esq.

March 23, 2017
Question:

Hi Jennifer,

I gave my employer notice and the response I got was he told me my services were no longer necessary.  I thought I could serve out the month for the salary, but now I see the handbook I signed says I am "at will". Would my contract govern of the handbook?  Contract says I have to give 3 months notice and work.

Thanks,
Dr. P

Answer:

Hi Dr. P, that's a good question.  I can't give you an actual answer without seeing the contract, and likely, the handbook, which I would have to be retained for. But, typically the contract states it supersedes any handbook provisions (typically, not always). We also have to check the language on the notice - is it solely an accommodation to the employer, or a required period the employer would be contractually bound to pay you?  Sometimes a contract has a notice period, but once the employee quits the employer can ask you leave immediately and not be responsible for further compensation....

So, we have to check.  Happy to talk offline.  For my employers out there, you may be getting some ideas - most of us don't want an employee around after they have been disloyal and quit.  If you were magnanimous in your contract previously, allowing a long notice period, you may want to revisit in the future. Some offer to pay out but request the employee leave the premises.  Some only pay so long as working and leave option open to terminate after notice is received (less common).  Some allow to stay so long as maintaining same schedule and adhering to the contract (re non solicit, non disparage). 

Food for thought...

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