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Is it legal to be fired the same day you put in your two weeks?

Are you wondering if it is legal to be fired the same day you put in your two weeks notice? Leaving a job can be a difficult decision, but perhaps you’ve come to a point in life where you need a change and a chance to seek out new opportunities or learn new skills. After holding a job down for even a few years, the security of long-term employment can be comforting but it can also lead to feelings of stagnation, especially if you’ve been passed over for promotions or pay raises. 

When you have a job offer, and you are planning to start your new job, it can be stressful. You don’t want to burn bridges with your current employer. You will likely want to put some effort into a classy resignation letter. If you need one, you can often find a template online. Don’t burn bridges for the following reasons:

  • You don’t want things to be awkward during a face-to-face exit interview
  • You might need your ex-bosses as mentors one day
  • Sometimes you will use your previous company name on social media/ Linkedin
  • Drama on your last day is never a nice way to leave things
  • Leave things on a high note
legal to be fired

Two weeks’ notice resignation letter

Some situations with employers can be much more stressful. Perhaps your boss or some of your coworkers have toxified the work atmosphere in the workplace with harassment or bullying behaviour, forcing you to quit for the sake of your own mental health. Leaving a job on bad terms, though, can put up barriers to finding a new place to work, so you give your two weeks’ notice when you resign as a means of keeping the peace and not leaving your employer and coworkers short-staffed.

Then the unthinkable happens. Your boss, upon hearing your plans to quit, tells you that quitting and putting in two weeks’ notice is unnecessary because, as he tells you, you’re fired. It’s not an uncommon scenario for workers who find themselves unemployed suddenly, oftentimes at the hands of a vindictive and malicious supervisor who takes your resignation as a personal slight, retaliating against you for daring to leave the job. The question is whether it’s a legal move to do that or against employment standards and rules, so it’s surely reasonable to ponder the question “Is it legal to be fired on the same day you put in your two weeks?”

Fired the same day you want to quit

Different jurisdictions, of course, have their own standards when it comes to hiring and firing employees though. What might be legal and above board in one province or state or city could be against the rules in neighbouring regions. Familiarising yourself with your specific region’s employment standards and laws could be a worthy exercise, or depending on the specific circumstances, reaching out to a lawyer after being fired in such a manner might be your best bet to find out what’s legal and what’s against the law. 

Here are some tips for a good letter of resignation:

  • Talk about what you valued in your current job
  • Make it clear that you followed the employment contract and company policies(but don’t be argumentative)
  • Explain you want a smooth transition and to leave on good terms
  • Talk about the team members you enjoyed working with
  • Make it clear that this is a two weeks notice letter
  • Include your contact information
  • Say you would like to stay in touch in case you ever need career advice or a career coach

Provincial employment standards in Canada 

In British Columbia, employees who quit their jobs are not required to give notice, though the provincial government notes that most companies typically appreciate a worker giving notice rather than abruptly leaving without explanation. Employees who quit aren’t entitled to severance pay and also don’t qualify for federal employment insurance benefits. The B.C. government also urges workers to find out if they can qualify for a “job-protected leave of absence,” such as going off work due to health reasons or family obligations. 

Provincial employment standards

But when an employee gives notice that they intend to quit, employers are indeed allowed to terminate them from their position right away. However, if a company elects to let the person go and terminate them on the spot when they give notice, the employer must pay out wages equivalent to the notice period or an amount they’d pay an employee if they had fired them, “whichever is less.”

Firing an employee who has given notice that they intend to quit is somewhat counterintuitive in British Columbia. This is because firing someone triggers many obligations for the employer to pay out severance, whereas employees who quit their jobs are not entitled to severance pay no matter how long they were on the job.

Find a good letter of resignation template

Employers who fire workers must give notice or pay severance tied to an employee’s length of service or give a combination of the two. Firing someone on the spot also triggers certain obligations for notice and pay upon employers. Hypothetically, the provincial government in B.C. gives an example of a worker fired after two years with a company. The company has three options; they can give two weeks‘ written notice, pay them two weeks‘ wages, or one week of notice and one week of wages. However, to fire someone without cause in B.C., employees must be given written notice informing them of the last date of work. 

In other words, the notice and payment entitlements of fired employees depend on how long they were on the job. If they’d only been employed for three months or less, employers don’t have to pay or give notice to someone they fire. After three months, fired employees are entitled to a minimum of one week of notice or pay, two weeks after a year, three weeks notice or pay and another week of each for service longer than three years, but the maximum is up to eight weeks. 

current job employment contract

Follow your current job employment contract

They can’t give notice of termination if an employee is on vacation, laid off, on leave, on strike, or away from work because of health issues. If someone is fired when they’re away from work, employers must pay compensation as well. But if someone is fired for cause, such as theft or insubordination, employers are not required to give notice or severance. However, employers have to prove there was just cause to fire someone without notice or severance. 

Even if a company is unhappy with a worker’s output and performance or perpetual tardiness, they can’t claim this as a “just cause” termination where no pay or notice is required. Employers who fire people for such reasons can claim it was for just cause under certain circumstances. For instance, if they can prove the worker was given clear instructions about work standards and given “reasonable time” to live up to them. As well, companies have to warn workers that they’d be fired if there was no improvement in their output or workplace conduct.    

Leave on good terms

B.C. also imposes rules on employers to adopt uniform standards for all workers and not treat people differently or inconsistently. Should an employee be fired for just cause and not paid severance or given any notice, they can take their former employer to court and sue for wrongful dismissal or complain to the Employment Standards Branch. 

Whether you decide to take your employment dispute to a court of a provincial employment standards branch, both will adjudicate such disputes recognizing how emotionally charged quitting a job can be. Determining whether a resignation was actually a termination depends on the specific circumstances, and both a court or an employment standards tribunal can award severance owed to employees who technically resign by finding that an employer improperly accepted a worker’s resignation, amounting to a constructive dismissal. 

There are numerous examples of how courts and tribunals have dealt with cases involving people who have quit their jobs in anger or frustration only to be awarded severance after the fact. For example, a case that came before an Alberta provincial court judge in 2008 involved a bellman who worked at the Delta Calgary Airport Hotel. 

You want things to go well on your last day

Schneider and his fellow bellmen had been in a dispute with management over money made from non-guests who parked at the hotel’s lot. In a meeting that “did not end happily,” Schneider reportedly “lost it” and told those at the meeting that “he was quitting the job or they could take the job and stuff it or he was resigning.” Despite this, an Employment Standards Officer found that the hotel had “provoked” the outburst and wrongfully accepted his resignation, awarding him severance for constructive dismissal without notice. 

The hotel appealed the decision, objecting to the finding that it had provoked him into quitting. But in the hotel’s appeal case, the judge found that Schneider did not really intend to quit. Instead, according to the appellate judge’s ruling, Schneider’s angry outburst about quitting at the meeting resulted from duress stemming from the dispute with management over the parking revenues. “Mr. Schneider was fired,” the judge wrote. “He was not told he was fired.”

company policies

Follow all company policies

In another similar case that came before the New Brunswick Labour and Employment Board in July 2004, an autobody shop worker named Richard Brayley had claimed he was owed severance and vacation pay after the owner had told him to “get the fuck out” following a dispute involving his rate of vacation pay after 10 years on the job.  Brayley had been left feeling short-changed and complained to his boss about it before being angrily told to get off the premises. He eventually complained to the Labour and Employment Board, which initially dismissed his complaint but later found that the owner of the shop’s actions was “tantamount” to firing Brayley, who had no “genuine intent” on quitting his job that day. 

Can you be fired the same day?

The board’s decision quotes from Innis Christie’s book “Employment Law in Canada.” Christie’s book notes that there is much ambiguity involved in figuring out if someone quits or is fired in employment relationships. Christie notes that courts and tribunals require that a “valid resignation” has both subjective and objective factors to consider. 

The employee must have a “subjective intention of quitting” while employers must reasonably believe that the person quitting has that intention. To show that intention, there needs to be “clear and unequivocal evidence” that somebody meant to quit rather than just losing their temper and saying “I quit” in the heat of the moment.

Meanwhile, as Christie’s book notes, employers sometimes give employees ultimatums to either quit or be fired. Courts dealing with subjective intentions of employees who quit are therefore mindful that employers use ultimatums to essentially force people to resign under duress, since getting fired can harm your reputation. The “subjective component,” in turn, acts as a safeguard for employees to ensure “that a resignation cannot be foisted on an employee against his or her free will.”

Legal to be fired the same day you put in your two weeks conclusion

If things start going poorly, express gratitude and send a formal letter with a counteroffer. Difficult conversations can sometimes be better dealt with in person, and sometimes via a positive note or letter. You can look up resignation emails or resignation letter samples.

Key points:

  • Make it clear that this is a formal resignation and the point is to give two weeks’ notice
  • Give back the employee handbook
  • Give them enough time to replace you (maybe give more than two weeks’ notice)
  • Be respectful to human resources because you might need them for future job searches and job opportunities
  • Keep it simple
  • Tie up loose ends and don’t leave things complex
  • Explain you are willing to work with them on a transition plan within a reasonable time frame

Fired the same day you quit

There’s little doubt that quitting a job or getting fired can be distressing, emotionally charged events where things get said in anger in the heat of the moment. Courts and provincial employment boards recognize that employees who quit in frustration don’t always walk off the job intentionally or by choice.

While it may be legal in some places to terminate you on the spot for giving your notice, employers still have to play by the rules and pay out what they owe to employees, even after a heated exchange of words sees them walk off the job.  Sometimes a professional courtesy can go a long way.

Good luck with your new employer, hopefully, you got a new higher-level job title! And good luck on your last day of work with your current job. You can find many letter templates online.

2 replies on “Is it legal to be fired the same day you put in your two weeks?”

People need to be careful so they don’t get taken advantage of… especially if they work in the restaurant industry.

This is very interesting, You’re a very professional blogger. I’m glad you are getting this important information out there, so less people are harmed. Legal information is key.

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