What is the Law on Job Abandonment?
Employment is at-will in California, which means that unless you have an employment contract, you can fire an employee for any reason, so long as the reason is not illegal or discriminatory.
As there are no federal or state statutes that define job abandonment, the employer must create their own set of rules that apply to the company's employees. For example, employers should mandate a policy on how many no-shows, and no-call days constitute job abandonment.
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What are the Reasons an Employee Might Abandon Their Job?
There are many reasons why job abandonment occurs, including:
- Fear of quitting the job in person
- Getting another job
- Personal or family member emergency
- Dissatisfaction with the job
- Fear of returning to work due to health/hygiene concerns (i.e. Covid 19 pandemic)
- A careless attitude by the employee
When Does an Employer Have Grounds to Fire an Employee for Abandonment?
The United States Supreme Court classifies abandonment of work as “a clear and deliberate intent to discontinue one’s employment without any intention of returning.”
To justify the termination of an employee for abandonment or work, the following elements must concur:
- The failure to report for work or absence without valid or justifiable reason; and
- A clear intention to sever the employer-employee relationship.
Thus, just failing to show up for work is not enough to support a charge of abandonment. The employer must demonstrate evidence of the employee’s “deliberate, unjustified refusal to resume his or her employment which is manifested through the employee’s overt acts.”
How Can Employers Prevent Job Abandonment?
You may not be able to eliminate job abandonment in your workplace, but there are several steps you can take to prevent it, including:
- Conduct surveys - Provide employees with an avenue to voice their concerns and provide feedback about the organization and their work environment. When you address their concerns and suggestions, employees will feel valued and respect the business.
- Promote awareness of attendance policies - Employers should educate all employees about the company's attendance policies. Document these policies in writing and review them verbally with new hires.
- Address performance issues - Employees who are struggling in their positions need to be reminded of expectations and offered support as soon as a problem is recognized. Managers should implement a specific plan for how employee can improve their performance.
- Motivate employees to give proper notice - Although giving at least 2 weeks’ notice is a traditional way to resign, people may not see how it benefits them. Encouraging employees to give adequate notice can discourage them from leaving without warning. This can be accomplished by employers offering incentives, such as eligibility for rehiring or payment for unused vacation / sick days.
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