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It's common wisdom that when you leave a job, you should give at least two weeks' notice to your boss. That's definitely a good general rule.
After all, if you leave without giving two weeks' notice, you run the risk of damaging the relationships you've built with people at your workplace. Even if you don't like your boss, giving less than two weeks' notice can place a huge burden on your co-workers.
Professionally, not giving your two weeks' notice before leaving a job can hurt you in the future. But legally, you do not necessarily need to give two weeks.
What Does Your Employment Agreement Say?
Most workers in the United States are "at will" employees. That means their employment contract can be ended at any time and for any reason.
That right goes both ways. Just like your employer can fire you at any time, you can also quit at any time without giving any notice at all. Doing that doesn't violate the law, but it could put you in breach of your employment contract, which could mean that you lose out on certain entitlements (like future commissions or bonuses).
For example, some employees are hired for a specified period of time. In that case, leaving early would likely break your contract. Depending on what your contract says, two weeks' notice may not be enough keep you out of trouble.
A contract is an agreement between two parties. It's your responsibility to uphold all the provisions of that deal, including the term about how long it lasts.
What Happens If You Don't Give 2 Weeks' Notice?
You could break the provisions of your contract, and that could have legal repercussions. If you have no choice, then notifying your employer and giving as much notice as possible (or perhaps even working out a new deal) can potentially make the fallout less serious.
But even if you aren't legally required to give two weeks' notice, consider the consequences if you don't. It can be seen as disrespectful to your employer, who may find himself in a tough situation to keep things running smoothly until you can be replaced.
When it comes time for you to get a new job, that could come back to haunt you. What kind of reference would you give to someone who left you in a lurch like that?
The risk of legal consequences isn't the only reason to act politely. Giving that two weeks' notice can go a long way in maintaining good relationships, and can pay off for you down the road.