Why am I working so hard at quitting this job?
November 12, 2009 3:37 PM   Subscribe

What are the legal requirements for quitting a job?

All parts of this query pertain to the state of New York (and not the city). The question seems strange to me too, but are there any requirements a corporation can place on a person as a condition of delivering the final paycheck?

Or is it an immutable duty of the company to issue the final paycheck on time and in full?

Things that come to my mind include signing forms for 'I won't sue,' or 'I promise not to disclose' (what I've already promised not to disclose on the original nondisclosure agreement i signed when starting) or 'I vow never to contact my formerly fellow employees'. These all seem a little ridiculous to me too, but seem more and more in the realm of possibility due to my current job.

Related, can an exit interview include one's manager, in addition to the 'typical' HR person? (Is there a 'typical' exit interview?) Any suggested responses for irrational insistence that it is perfectly legal for the corporation to insist I sign whatever they want before they will deliver final paycheck? Also, any further suggested preparation for an exit interview about which I've become way too paranoid?
posted by Tandem Affinity to Work & Money (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
In the United States, not providing a final paycheck is a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act, provided the employee is not a non-exempt employee committing gross negligence.

Now, the employer is not required to keep an employee (unless previously agreed in a contract) once the employee resigns. For instance, you can be fired the moment you give your two week's notice, leaving the employer only liable for paying you up until you give the notice. No agreement is necessary to get this final paycheck, since you're only bound by agreements you've already made and they're bound to pay you. However, if you don't agree to what they want, they're not liable for anything other than the final paycheck.

Always decline exit interviews. There's no benefit to them and they can only burn bridges with your former employer.
posted by saeculorum at 3:42 PM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Keep in mind you can always turn this on their heads and offer things like this:

"I'd be happy to sign a non-contact agreement for two weeks equivalent pay."
"I'd be available for an exit interview at my normal consulting rate of $100/hour."

You're not required to do much of anything for your employer without pay.
posted by saeculorum at 3:54 PM on November 12, 2009

Your employer unambiguously owes you for work performed but not yet compensated, regardless of whether you decide to sign a restrictive severance agreement.

If I recall correctly, New York State does allow an employer to limit reimbursement of accrued vacation pay in some cases, as when an employee who contracted to give three weeks' notice instead storms out of the office abruptly and never returns. But that doesn't sound like your situation.

If your employer offers you additional compensation -- a severance package -- in return for signing a severance agreement that includes promises not to disclose, sue, contact colleagues, etc., you're free to consider their offer. But you're under absolutely no legal obligation to sign away rights or make promises if all you want is your pay for work performed.
posted by gum at 4:03 PM on November 12, 2009

Best answer: Always decline exit interviews. There's no benefit to them and they can only burn bridges with your former employer.

That's not true. Sometimes they explain how to transfer your 401(k), sign up for COBRA, etc. And unless you have had a very obviously bad experience that led you to quit, it's not even that hard to address they "why are you leaving" question - pursuing a different career direction, downshift to spend more time with family, getting another degree, etc.
posted by rkent at 4:29 PM on November 12, 2009 [3 favorites]

rkent's comment matches my experience. Exit interviews tend to be HR stuff you care about and the traditional handing in of the badge, keys, laptop, etc. Declining one seems stupid. You shouldn't just sign anything they hand you without reading but unless you have reason to be paranoid, they're not a big deal.
posted by chairface at 4:41 PM on November 12, 2009

Best answer: I'd decline to say anything substantive in an exit interview, if in fact there was no way to get out of it. Beyond that, I doubt NY is much different than many other place in that your final paycheck is money that already belongs to you. They deny it to you (covenant signature or no) at their own peril. Don't let them bully you.
posted by rhizome at 4:43 PM on November 12, 2009

I am with rhizome. HR people can make a lot of intimidating noise but none of it can stop you from getting the money you are owed.
posted by Kirklander at 4:47 PM on November 12, 2009

Best answer: You must be paid for work you have done, as well as earned vacation time.

It's not uncommon to make severance pay contingent on an agreement, but only if the severance pay is above any earned pay, accrued vacation and required severance (in some cases, there may be severance due because of union rules, company policy or state law).

You have nothing to gain by mouthing off in an exit interview. It's a small world, so be blandly polite. As you decline to sign any kind of agreement for which you get no additional money, smile and wish them a nice day.
posted by theora55 at 4:57 PM on November 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This is the kind of question an employment lawyer could answer for you in an hour's consultation to set your mind at ease. Check the New York chapter of the National Employment Lawyers Association.
posted by yarly at 5:14 PM on November 12, 2009

You must be paid for work you have done, no matter what.
posted by spaltavian at 6:48 PM on November 12, 2009

What are the legal requirements for quitting a job?

There are none. But an employer only has to pay you money owed to you up-to the time you quit. Additional money or severance is negotiable.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:57 AM on November 13, 2009

I wouldn't be signing anything in an exit interview. Maybe something about Cobra or 401k but I'd be reading it pretty closely or taking it home with me.
posted by sully75 at 6:05 AM on November 13, 2009

Response by poster: thanks for all your answers. i was looking for a holistic sort of 'what should happen?', 'what is legal?', ' what might happen ?', 'how do i respond ?'. i feel much more prepared now. bland is the plan, no signatures, and thank you for the reference, yarly. prior history, the company's - not my own, indicates the need to be paranoid...just in case..
posted by Tandem Affinity at 2:32 PM on November 13, 2009

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