The short answer is, No. There is no such legal requirement.
California, like most states, is an “at-will” employment state, meaning that in most instances employers can fire employees at any time, for any reason, with or without cause or advance notice. While this may seem harsh, it also means the flip side applies as well – employees can quit their jobs at any time, for any reason and without having to give any advance notice, either.
There are exceptions, of course. If you have an employment contract, it might require a certain amount of advance notice before resigning.
Your employer’s written policies or employee handbook might also require a certain amount of advance notice. So make sure you check these kinds of documents before committing to anything.
But if neither of those kinds of documents requires a specified amount of advance notice, there is no overriding legal rule requiring you give a two-week notice before quitting. It’s customary to do so. Most employers expect it. But it’s not legally required.
So, should you or shouldn’t you give two-weeks’ notice, anyway? In most cases, the benefits of giving such notice outweigh the pitfalls.
The Benefits of Giving a Two-Weeks’ Notice
Employers almost always appreciate advance notice, because it gives them time to plan for your departure and transition and to start work on filling your role with someone else. Such notice can also create a more positive, lasting impression of you with your employer, which may bode well if and when it comes time to collect letters of recommendation.
Also, future employers are likely to view the advance notice you gave your departing employer as a positive an indication of your character and of how much respect and regard you give to those who employ you.
The Pitfalls of Giving a Two-Weeks’ Notice
Unfortunately, some employers may use your two-weeks’ notice period as a time to make your life there miserable, to punish you for leaving. They may try to unfairly cause you to damage or compromise business relationships with outsiders or vendors who you otherwise intend to continue to work within the future.
They might even preemptively fire you before the end of your two-week notice period (which isn’t illegal.)
When Quitting Without Notice is Acceptable
While giving advance notice is, on balance, usually the best thing to do, there are situations where leaving without advance notice makes the most sense. For example:
- When you’re being subjected to intolerable sexual or discriminatory harassment;
- When a co-worker, supervisor threatens your health or safety;
- When your work environment has become unreasonably unsafe and you feel like continuing to work there might put you at risk;
- When you already know giving advance notice will be met with retaliatory acts by your employer or co-workers.