- On February 14, 2020
No one knows where the two weeks’ notice rule came from. It’s certainly not state or federal law. In an interview with KQED, the Dean of Cornell School of Industrial Relations and Labor Alexander Colvin guesses it came from big companies formalizing corporate policies in the 40s and 50s. At that time, companies gave employees potentially lifetime employment and a set of benefits, and in return expected the respect and courtesy of two weeks’ notice from anyone leaving.
Does the rule still apply? This world is generally at-will, where no one expects lifetime employment. And millenials, who feel they can be cut ruthlessly, certainly do not feel like they owe their employers two weeks’ notice.
Yet, in the conservative world of lawyers, the answer is still yes, you need to give two weeks’ notice. My clients (the employers) expect anyone they hire to set aside two weeks to wrap things up before they can start. But more than two weeks? My clients don’t want to wait much more than that for someone to start. One exception is if the employee has to move for the job. Another is if the employee has a pre-planned vacation. In that case, I’ve seen the employer ask the person to start before the trip, take the time off, and then get back to work afterwards.
I have also seen departing employees be asked to stay for more than two weeks. Usually the reason given is their job is critical and no one else can finish that last project up. That’s up to the employee not to feel guilt-tripped into staying longer and (more importantly) not burning any bridges. The employee should set up a plan of transition, which can include introducing on-demand counsel services or consulting services to the company.
The bottom line: yes, give two weeks’ notice.