Can An Employer Force You To Quit?

AS Writing Notification of Resignation
One question I'm surprised I've never gotten here at AOL is one of the most common questions I get in my law practice. That is, whether your boss can force you to quit. Sometimes, a supervisor will try to make you so miserable you'll quit, but some will come right out and say it's time to turn in your resignation.

What are your rights if your employer shoves a resignation letter in front of you and tells you to sign? Should you resign when asked?

Here are the top 5 things to think about before you sign a forced resignation:
  1. Are you being offered anything? If you aren't being offered severance or something of value in exchange for the resignation, why resign? Let them fire you so you'll at least get unemployment.
  2. Did you complain about discriminatory harassment? If you haven't followed the company's policy on reportingrace, age, sex, religious, national origin, disability, or other harassment, best do so before you leave. Otherwise, you might give up your right to sue for any illegal discrimination.
  3. Are you signing away rights? If they want you to sign something right away, don't do it. You aren't thinking straight. Ask to take it so you can review it. If they demand that you sign on the spot, it's a red flag. You might be agreeing not to work for a competitor for a year or two, releasing claims for discrimination or whistleblowing, or giving up important legal rights.
  4. Will you get unemployment? By resigning, you may give up your right to recover unemployment compensation benefits.
  5. Who do you think you're fooling? Some people think it will look better when they apply for new jobs to say they quit instead of explaining they were fired. Really? In this economy? Who quits without having another job lined up? Especially when discrimination against the unemployed is legal in most states. Plus, unless you negotiate for a written commitment from the employer about what they will say about you in references, they may well say you were fired or that you're ineligible for rehire even if you quit. You'll have to figure out a way to explain the gap in your resume.
If you do have claims like discrimination, illegal harassment, whistleblower retaliation, worker's compensation retaliation, unpaid overtime or other potential claims against your employer, you may have leverage to negotiate a decent severance package. Don't panic and sign your rights away.
Nobody can make you quit your job. They can fire you or lay you off. They can make you miserable. But ultimately, it's your decision and yours alone whether or not to quit. Don't get fooled into thinking otherwise. Your boss cannot force you to resign your job.

If you think you're about to be fired or asked to resign, do what you can to protect yourself. But if someone demands you resign, think carefully about what you're doing. When in doubt, talk to an employment lawyer in your state about your rights.

If you need legal advice, it's best to talk to an employment lawyer in your state, but if you have general legal issues you want me to discuss publicly here, whether about discrimination, working conditions, employment contracts, medical leave, or other employment law issues, you can ask me at AOL Jobs. While I can't answer every question here, your question might be featured in one of my columns, or in our upcoming live video chat.
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