Can I Be Fired Because My Boss Knows I'll Be Leaving?

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An AOL Jobs reader wrote:

A few months ago I told my boss that my husband moved to another state and that I will be moving two months ago but my husband did not get situated until last month. So I told her it might be the end of next month but I never gave her a resignation letter with a specific date. She went along and hired someone to replace and for her to start in two months. Last week I went to her and told her I might not be moving for three more months. She spoke to the executive director and they told me my last day will be the middle of next month and she sent a letter to HR letting them know my last day of work. My husband is upset and called and spoke to the executive director.

What do I do now to resolve the issue?

I assume you don't have a contract saying you can only be fired for cause. Assuming you don't, you're an at-will employee who can be fired for any reason or no reason at all. They can't fire you for an illegal reason, like discrimination, but can fire you for any other reason.

If your boss knows you won't be around much longer, then she can protect herself by looking for a replacement. It sounds like you actually told her you were leaving a while ago, then changed your mind. I'm a little surprised she didn't start looking then and replace you.

It isn't really fair to your boss to leave her in limbo about your plans. That means she was within her rights to hire someone to replace you and send you on your way.

In the future, I suggest you keep your plans to yourself until you are 100% sure. By dithering with the dates, yet telling her you'll be gone eventually, you alerted her that she'd soon have a vacancy. The better plan would have been to wait until you've booked the moving vans and sold the house, then give a few weeks of notice.

To sum it up:
  • No, your boss doesn't have to wait until you give notice. Once they know you're leaving, replacing you is fair game.
  • No, your boss doesn't have to let you take back your notice. If you said you were leaving two months ago, then changed your mind, then gave another date and changed your mind, you're lucky she kept you as long as she did.
  • No, you don't have to call it "notice" or anything specific. If you say you're leaving soon, you just quit.
  • Yes, they can shorten your notice. If you say you're leaving in August, they can say goodbye to you in June. They don't have to let you work out your notice period. You're terminable at-will.

Be careful what personal information you share at work. If your employer finds out you're planning on leaving, you may be out the door sooner than you think.

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.

Please note: Anything you write to me may be featured in one of my columns. I won't be able to respond individually to questions.
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