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I know 2 weeks notice is customary but not required by law when quitting a job. Is it ever illegal not to give notice? For example could a surgeon quit just before he was supposed to do surgery, or a cop quit after being ordered to report to a shooting?

Is this illegal per se or is it that it opens them up to people suing for damages?

I received a job offer with a non-abandonment clause saying if I quit before the contract was up I owed the company $15000 for the damage to reputation. I sort of don't get the point of such a clause, because if I did cause that much damage, then wouldn't they be able to sue me anyway even without it being in the contract?

If this is how it works what's stopping a company for suing for damages even if you gave 2 weeks notice? They could argue "he's responsible for the incurred cost of finding a new suitable employee to replace him, and training him".

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    Illegal in which place in the world?
    – Philipp
    Apr 4, 2018 at 11:46
  • "I received a job offer with a non-abandonment clause..." - Don't accept this without showing it to a lawyer first.
    – Brandin
    Apr 5, 2018 at 10:33

3 Answers 3

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Desertion is usually a military crime. I am not aware of any civilian context in which abandoning your employment is criminal per se. However, a failure to act when you have a duty to do so can be criminal, whether or not the duty arises from employment. For example, your surgeon and police examples could potentially constitute negligent homicide if someone died.

Speaking very generally, contractual damages are usually calculated to put the plaintiff in the position they would have occupied if the contract was not breached, so a person who gives insufficient notice would only be liable to compensate the employer for the losses that relate to the insufficient notice, not any additional losses that are inherent in the replacement of an employee. The cost of litigation and public relations risk associated with suing an ex-employee are major reasons not to sue for these losses. Local labour law may also significantly change the operation of ordinary contractual principles, often in favour of the employee.

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  • In the US, at least, the cop example probably wouldn't fly. Cops are not obligated to protect someone from harm.
    – cHao
    Apr 4, 2018 at 20:39
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The clause you refer to specifically makes it unnecessary to prove what damage your resignation did; the contract says that the damage to reputation is valued at $15000, so that's what you owe them. (I find it hard to believe such a clause is enforceable, but that's by the way; the purpose is to deter you from quitting.) If you actually damaged the company, (say they lost a client because you weren't available when your contract said you would be), they can sue you for that as well.

And a company can't sue you if you give a reasonable notice period. 'Reasonable' should be defined either in the contract or the applicable law code; if not, a court will consider a number of factors, including how much training a replacement will need - and the minimum notice they have to give you on dismissal.

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The example you give of a cop failing to report something might be illegal, similar to a psychologist not reporting a patient they thought was an imminent danger. However, it would be largely unrelated to them quitting - they could quit and still report it after all.

A surgeon quitting in the middle of a surgery might be criminally negligent. Similarly a pilot or sailor quitting at a critical time and refusing to avert a disaster. Air traffic control officer too perhaps.

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    Note that in the question, the police officer was required to report to a shooting. I read that as a requirement to attend the crime scene.
    – sjy
    Apr 4, 2018 at 21:12

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