Sunday, August 12, 2012

Two weeks' notice

A property manager for a homeowners association in Southern California had been looking for a job for a year.

"I wanted to find something less aggravating and with less overtime required," she writes.

Luckily, she found a possible job as a commercial property manager. While the new employer was doing its due diligence on her, and before she had given notice to her current employer, she found out that she had to have abdominal surgery that would place her out of work for four weeks.

"Yikes," she writes. "I didn't expect that."

She had a total of 22 comp and vacation days coming to her from her current employer, just about the time she would need to recover from surgery. Two weeks before her surgery was scheduled, she told her current employer she would be off for 22 days.

The next day, the new employer offered her the property manager position, which she accepted. She explained that she wouldn't be able to start until after her surgery. The new employer was fine with her start date.

Two weeks before her recovery period was over, she still hadn't told her current employer that she was not coming back.

"I feel that I owe them two weeks' notice," she writes, "but I am afraid they will somehow decide not to pay me for my remaining comp days and shortchange me one paycheck. I can't afford that."

But she also doesn't want to "burn any bridges" because she says she did a good job for them. "I don't want to just not come back and not tell them."

"Do I owe them the two weeks' notice?" she asks. "I want to do the right thing."

I'm not an employment lawyer -- or any kind of lawyer, for that matter -- but whether or not the reader from Southern California gives notice, if her employer had committed to paying for unused comp time and vacation days upon an employee's departure, that commitment should be honored.

Of course, when she goes to tell her supervisor that she plans to leave in two weeks, there's no guarantee that he or she won't respond by suggesting that she clean out her desk and leave right away. It's not always a guarantee that when an employee tries to do the right thing by giving an employer notice that an employer will respond in an equally fair way.

Since those two weeks were days that she planned to be out using the unused comp and vacation time her current employer owed her, the right thing would be for the company to honor its commitment and pay for those days she had earned before she leaves for her new job.

Just as she doesn't want to burn any bridges in how she handles her departure, her current employer would be wise to behave in a way that sends a message to remaining employees that they will be treated fairly if they do a good job for the company.

There's no guarantee that such fair treatment will ensue -- in a bad or good economy -- but it's hopeful that managers and employers recognize that the effects of their behavior towards departing employees goes far beyond those departing and can send a message of whether theirs is the type of company for which others would want to work. 

Jeffrey L. Seglin, author of The Right Thing: Conscience, Profit and Personal Responsibility in Today's Business and The Good, the Bad, and Your Business: Choosing Right When Ethical Dilemmas Pull You Apart, is a lecturer in public policy and director of the communications program at Harvard's Kennedy School. Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin 

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(c) 2012 JEFFREY L. SEGLIN. Distributed by Tribune MediaServices, Inc.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Where I work, unused vacation and so forth are considerd as earned time and are paid as appropriate upon termination.

Such things are defined in writing and they should be common knowledge.

Whiile this may not always be the case, I suspect it is since the compamy has a policy of paid time off.

Alan O , Greenfield Ma.

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