Have you been thinking about quitting your job, but just cannot figure out the most delicate way to broach the subject with your boss? Maybe you are at a loss for words on how to explain your departure or want to find a more elegant way of telling your boss that you’re tired of Mailroom Paul eating all of your almond butter from the fridge (seriously, Paul, the jar is labeled). Fear not, early adopters, there is an app for that! Branching out from personal relationships to employment relationships, the makers of “Breakup Text,” and its predictable successor, “Makeup Text,” recently introduced the “Quit Your Job” app for the iPhone. Although the app professes to be solely for “entertainment purposes,” it will customize a resignation text that you can pass along to your employer—as soon as you let the app access all your contacts (this, of course, is where my test run of the app concluded).
Essentially, “Quit Your Job” will walk you through a series of options to craft your ideal resignation text, beginning with the initial screen that poses the timely question: why are you quitting your job? If you are still fumbling for words, the app allows you to decide whether you are quitting because (a) you are sick of the corporate world; (b) you want to get rich; or (c) you found a new job. If you are quitting for any other reason beyond these three, the app appears to be of no use to you and emoticons will have to suffice.
Even though “Quit Your Job” alleges it’s just for fun, some employees will undoubtedly use the app to resign and other apps will be soon follow that present themselves as “serious” or “legitimate” methods to resign via a quick text to the boss. From an employment perspective, the procedures for resigning from a job are rarely, if ever, controlled by statute or regulation. Typically, if an employer has resignation procedures, they are contained in (1) the employee’s employment agreement, (2) the employer’s handbook, or (3) a collective bargaining agreement. So, how will an employee’s use of “Quit Your Job,” or any of its inevitable progeny, impact employers?
The primary issue is whether the employee’s use of a text message will violate the company’s resignation procedures, which often require that notice be sent a certain number of days in advance (i.e., the traditional “two weeks’ notice”) and to a specified email address for an electronic notice of resignation or to a specific individual for a hard copy notice. But the employee is quitting, so why does it matter? There are a number of consequences for not properly resigning from an employer, which are usually more significant for higher-level employees and may create additional considerations or concerns for the employer. So, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that the “Quit Your Job” resignation text message does not constitute proper written notice of resignation to an employer under an employment agreement, handbook policy, or collectively bargained agreement.
By violating the employment contract, the employee may compromise his or her ability to obtain a severance package, especially if the entitlement to a severance package was drafted directly into the employment contract, and provides the employer with more leverage during any post-employment negotiations. Even a contractually-mandated severance agreement may be forfeited if the employee breaches the contract first by not properly resigning from the position—whether the breach be too little notice or insufficient delivery of the notice. The issue of whether that breach would be sufficient to absolve the employer from paying the severance agreement will likely be a contractual dispute, but a flip resignation text before walking out the door will certainly provide the employer with additional arguments as to why the employee’s conduct voided the contract.
Moreover, while some severance agreements are drafted into employment contracts, many are offered at the employer’s discretion and are dependent upon the circumstances of each employee’s departure. Of course, almost any decision that is left to the employer’s discretion is a fertile area for discrimination and retaliation litigation, and employees have brought Title VII lawsuits for not receiving or receiving less generous severance packages than their peers. See, e.g.,
McGuinness v. Lincoln Hall, 263 F.3d 49 (2d Cir. 2001); Davis v. Precoat Metals, a Div. of Sequa Corp., 328 F. Supp. 2d 847 (N.D. Ill. 2004). A casual text message from the employee conveying his or her resignation, however, could provide a non-retaliatory, non-discriminatory basis for denying a severance to one employee in any ensuing litigation.
Second, an improper resignation may convert an employee’s departure from an amicable split to a tense breakup that causes the employer to classify the employee’s status as “Not eligible for rehire.” Few, if any, employers would risk providing the details of an employee’s departure to a prospective employer for fear of a defamation lawsuit, but many will state whether the employee’s status is “Eligible for rehire.” Additionally, if the employee did not get that severance package we discussed above and seeks governmental support, a terse resignation text may be used against the employee at the unemployment hearing and the employee’s resignation may provide a sufficient basis to deny unemployment benefits outright.
Third, the timing of the notice may impact the employer’s payment of final wages due under the operative employment contract or state and federal laws. Certain states, like California, have statutes that mandate when final wages are due to an employee based on the employee’s final day of employment. See Cal. Labor Code Sections 201 and 227 (providing that employees who quit without giving prior notice must be paid their wages within 72 hours and employees who provide at least 72 hours’ notice of their intention to quit must be paid their wages on their final workday). Sending a text message creates new issues related to the timing of the notice, such as whether the notice was delivered when the text message was sent or when the employer finally saw the text message. This, in turn, impacts the employer’s final obligations to the employee under any operative employment contract and various state and federal laws.
Fourth, and of a more general concern, who is to stay that the text actually came from the employee and not a disgruntled coworker or ex-lover who got access to the phone and opened the “Quit Your Job” app? Additionally, there is a possibility that the supervisor may not immediately see the text if he or she does not regularly check their phone. Along these lines, what if the employee sent the text to a supervisor’s personal phone, as opposed to their work phone; when will the employer be placed on notice of the resignation? Employers do not need to instruct supervisors to vigilantly check their text messages for resignation notices, but employers should ensure that supervisors are aware that some employees may attempt to resign or communicate certain information through text messages, and to immediately bring such messages to human resources or legal for further review as needed. This concern also highlights the larger issue of employers ensuring they have a proper employee policy detailing how and by what means certain information should be communicated to the employer from the employees.
These are just a few of the concerns employers will have as employees toy with the notion of texting their resignations and bypassing “traditional” forms of notice for quicker and more modern approaches. Although the content of the message may not change whether it’s a written letter or text message, the delivery and authentication of the text message may pose some unique issues. What’s next, tweeting your resignation in 140 characters or less?