Posted On: February 15, 2008

Employment Termination vs. Resignation: The Two Week Notice Question

I am frequently asked questions about sexual harassment, wrongful termination, employment discrimination and failure to pay overtime and wages, but I have had several people contact me in the past few days to ask me questions about termination vs. resignation. This is always a delicate area, because there are no hard and fast rules.

In the workplace, a standard practice has developed -- employees typically give a two-week notice when resigning, and employers often give a two-week notice when terminating a person's employment. From a legal viewpoint, these standards are arbitrary. An employee can quit without giving any notice, and an employer can fire an employee without giving any notice. There are simply no laws mandating such decorum in the workplace.

An interesting question that sometimes arises is as follows: if an employee gives a two-week notice, and the employer tells the employee not to work the two weeks -- and does not pay the employee for those two weeks -- can the employee file for unemployment compensation, even though the employee resigned (which would normally disqualify an employee from receiving unemployment). While there are no hard and fast rules, Maryland unemployment decisions concerning that issue have generally found that the employee is eligible for unemployment, but only for two weeks. After that date, the employee would not have been working anyway because of the employee's resignation, so any unemployment benefits would cease after the two week period.

So, what should a smart employee do? From a common sense viewpoint, it is never wise to burn bridges, so give a two-week notice. If your employer chooses not to honor that two-week notice, you can always file for unemployment, but even if you don't want to take that route, you will probably be better off leaving an employer on good terms.

Posted On: February 14, 2008

Sexual Harassment in Today's Workplace -- Not As Uncommon As You May Think!

Many people assume that sexual harassment is an aberration, that in 2008, employees rarely are subjected to such improper conduct in the workplace except in isolated cases. Well, my experience with sexual harassment cases suggests that, unfortunately, sexual harassment is alive and well in Baltimore City and County, in Howard County, in Frederick County -- indeed, throughout Maryland.

Just in the past three weeks, I have been approached by women experiencing the following situations: a) a woman in Howard County working for a restaurant was subjected to coarse sexual language, hugged and kissed against her will, and then sexually assaulted by a coworker; b) a sales representative for a home improvement company in Baltimore City was stalked by a manager who repeatedly asked her on dates, used sexual language, tried to kiss her, and threatened to reduce her commissions if she failed to date him; and c) a salesperson for a retail store in Frederick was repeatedly asked out to dinner by her boss, subjected to inappropriate language and hugged and rubbed up against in a back room.

In each of these situations, when the employee complained to management, the employer either promised to take care of the situation -- and then failed to take any concrete steps to make sure the problems would not continue -- or terminated the complaining employee. Thus, not only have these employees been subjected to what, in all likelihood, would be considered to be sexual harassment by most courts, but they have been retaliated against for complaining to management about the alleged harassment.

If there is a lesson to be learned, it is that even today, in 2008, many employers do not know how to effectively follow their own sexual harassment policies. And that creates even bigger problems for employers, because retaliation claims are often more successful than the underlying sexual harassment complaint.