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Can they fire you after you quit?

Quitting a job and being fired are two different concepts that often come up in discussions about employment. Quitting refers to the voluntary act of an employee choosing to leave their job, while being fired refers to the termination of employment by an employer. While quitting and being fired may seem like distinct events, there can be some overlap when it comes to the legalities surrounding these actions.

In this blog post, we will explore the question of whether an employer can fire an employee after they quit. We will examine the legalities of firing after an employee quits, including the concept of at-will employment, exceptions to at-will employment, illegal reasons for firing, and contractual obligations. Additionally, we will discuss the potential legal recourse for employees who are fired after quitting.

Can an employer fire an employee after they quit?

When it comes to the question of whether an employer can fire an employee after they quit, the answer is generally yes. In most cases, employers have the legal right to terminate an employee’s employment at any time, for any reason, as long as the reason is not illegal. This is known as the employment at-will doctrine.

Employment at-will doctrine

The employment at-will doctrine is a legal principle that states that either the employer or the employee can terminate the employment relationship at any time, for any reason, or for no reason at all, without incurring legal liability. This means that in most states in the United States, employers are not required to provide a reason for terminating an employee’s employment.

However, it is important to note that the employment at-will doctrine is not absolute, and there are exceptions to this general rule.

Exceptions to employment at-will

While employers generally have the right to fire employees after they quit, there are certain exceptions to the employment at-will doctrine that protect employees from being terminated for illegal reasons or in breach of contractual obligations.

Illegal reasons for firing: Employers are prohibited from terminating employees based on certain protected classes or actions, such as race, gender, age, disability, or engaging in whistleblowing activities. Firing an employee for any of these reasons would be considered illegal and could result in legal consequences for the employer.

Contractual obligations: In some cases, employees may have employment contracts that provide them with additional protections. These contracts may include terms and conditions that prevent the employer from terminating the employee’s employment after they have given notice to quit. These contractual obligations can limit the employer’s ability to fire an employee who has already resigned.

Employment at-will doctrine

The employment at-will doctrine is the foundation of most employment relationships in the United States. It allows employers and employees to terminate the employment relationship without providing a reason. This doctrine provides flexibility for both parties but can also lead to potential abuses.

For employers, the employment at-will doctrine means they have significant discretion in managing their workforce. They have the right to make staffing decisions based on their business needs and can terminate employees who are not meeting performance expectations or who are no longer needed.

On the other hand, employees also benefit from the employment at-will doctrine as they have the freedom to leave a job that no longer suits their needs or pursue better opportunities elsewhere. However, this flexibility does come with certain limitations and protections.

The employment at-will doctrine applies to firing an employee after they quit because, in the absence of a contract or specific legal protections, employers generally have the right to terminate employees at any time, regardless of their resignation.

Illegal reasons for firing

While the employment at-will doctrine gives employers broad discretion in terminating employees, there are certain reasons that are considered illegal under various anti-discrimination laws. These laws protect employees from being fired based on their membership in certain protected classes or for engaging in certain protected activities.

Protected classes can include race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information. Firing an employee based on any of these characteristics would be considered discriminatory and illegal.

Additionally, employees are also protected from retaliation for engaging in certain actions protected by law, such as reporting illegal activity or filing a complaint about workplace misconduct. If an employee is fired after engaging in any protected activity, it may be considered illegal retaliation.

Employees who believe they have been fired for an illegal reason may have legal recourse and can file complaints with relevant authorities or pursue legal action against their former employer.

Contractual obligations

In some cases, employees may have employment contracts that include specific terms and conditions that provide them with additional protections. These contracts may outline the rights and obligations of both the employer and the employee, including the process for termination.

When an employee has given notice to quit, their employment contract may have provisions that prevent the employer from terminating their employment during the notice period or after they have officially left the job. These contractual obligations can provide an added layer of protection for employees who have resigned.

It is important for employees to review their employment contracts carefully and understand the specific terms and conditions outlined. By doing so, they can determine what protections they may have against being fired after they quit.

Exceptions to firing after quitting

While the general rule is that employers can fire employees after they quit, there are exceptions to this concept, particularly when there are contractual obligations in place.

If an employee has an employment contract that includes specific terms protecting them from termination after quitting, the employer may be in breach of the contract by firing the employee during or after the notice period. In these cases, the employee may have legal grounds to challenge the termination.

Some employment contracts may also include non-retaliation clauses, which prohibit the employer from taking adverse actions against an employee for exercising their legal rights, such as quitting or filing complaints. If an employer fires an employee in retaliation for quitting, it may be considered unlawful.

It is important for employees to understand their rights and protections under their employment contracts and to consult with legal counsel if they feel their rights have been violated.

Legal recourse for employees fired after quitting

If an employee believes they have been wrongfully terminated after quitting, there are steps they can take to seek legal recourse.

First, it is advisable to gather any evidence or documentation related to the termination, such as emails, performance evaluations, or witness statements. This evidence can support any future legal claims.

Next, employees may consider filing a complaint with relevant authorities, such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or a state labor board, depending on the nature of the alleged illegal termination. These agencies can investigate the complaint and potentially take action against the employer.

Lastly, employees who believe they have been wrongfully terminated after quitting may choose to pursue legal action by hiring an attorney and filing a lawsuit against their former employer. Legal action can result in damages awarded to the employee if they are able to prove that their termination was unlawful.


In summary, while employers generally have the right to fire employees after they quit, there are certain legalities and exceptions that come into play. The employment at-will doctrine grants employers the flexibility to terminate employees at any time, as long as it is not for illegal reasons. However, employees are protected from being terminated for reasons based on protected classes or protected activities. Additionally, contractual obligations outlined in employment contracts can provide employees with further protections against being fired after quitting.

Understanding one’s rights and obligations in the workplace is crucial for employees, especially when it comes to quitting a job and the potential consequences that may follow. By being informed about the relevant laws and employment contracts, employees can navigate these situations with confidence and know what steps to take if they believe they have been wrongfully terminated after quitting.


  1. Can You Be Terminated After Resigning?
  2. Fired After Giving Notice: Is That Wrongful Termination?
  3. Can a Company Fire You After You Give Notice? – The Balance
  4. Can an employer fire you after you’ve already quit?
  5. Is it Better to Quit or Be Fired? – Edgar Snyder & Associates