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When Is It Too Late to Quit a Job?

making job choices
By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

You applied. You interviewed. They offered and you accepted. You might've signed a confidentiality or non-disclosure agreement, and maybe you even got your first paycheck already. But, you're having second thoughts about your new job, and wondering if it's too late to walk out the door.

The good news is, it's probably not. The bad news is, the good news doesn't always apply.

Parting Ways

The vast majority of employment is "at-will," meaning that your employer can fire you for any reason or no reason at all (as long as it's not a bad reason, like because of race or gender). Most states also don't require any advance notice of termination, either. Lucky for you, at-will employment is a two-way street, meaning you can also leave a job for whatever reason and, generally speaking, whenever you want. Even that thing about giving two-weeks' notice is more of a professional courtesy than a legal requirement, albeit a courtesy that can help you maintain positive working relationships and maybe get you a job later down the line.

So, as long as your employment remains at-will, it's never too late to quit.

Contractual Split

The exception to that general rule is if you've already signed an employment contract. While most employment agreements contain general terms about confidentiality, non-competition, compensation, and possible arbitration, some employment contracts include a specific time of employment. This can be especially true if you've been hired to work on a specific project or create a specific product. And quitting before that term expires can mean violating the contract.

Leaving a job before an employment contract expires can mean simply missing out on some entitlements like commissions, bonuses, or vested stock options. But it can also mean being sued for breach of contract. And while courts aren't too keen on making someone work a job they don't want, they are a little more likely to order damages in the form of financial compensation or, in some cases, block you from working for a competitor for a certain amount of time.

If you haven't signed an employment contract, you're probably good to quit whenever you want. And if you're looking for a way out of your employment contract, you should probably talk to an attorney.

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