Job abandonment occurs when an employee leaves his job with no intent to return to work and does not inform the employer of his intention to quit. There are no laws that specifically define job abandonment. It is defined by the individual employer and documented in its human resources policies or employee handbook. Typically, employers define job abandonment as three consecutive "no call, no show" days, unless there are extenuating circumstances.
Job abandonment is considered a form of voluntary resignation and, as such, employees abandoning their jobs have many of the same rights as those who formally resign from their employment. They are entitled to receive their final pay for hours worked, overtime and outstanding commissions and other forms of pay in a timely manner, as required by state law. Employers cannot withhold final pay as a way to force the former employee to return any equipment in her possession, such as a cellphone or laptop computer. Nor can they withhold the check as repayment for a loan or payday advance. States have established procedures for recovering company property and money owed that the employer must follow.
Employees who abandon their jobs are entitled to the same benefits as those who voluntarily resign. This means that they are eligible for continuation of health insurance coverage for up to 18 months under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA). In addition, they are entitled to any retirement or pension plans to which they have contributed under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). They must meet the plan qualifications for participation. Vacation, sick and holiday pay is governed by each employer's human resources policies, and employees abandoning their jobs may or may not receive pay for unused vacation or sick leave, depending on the company's policy.
Typically, people who voluntarily resign from their jobs are not entitled to unemployment insurance benefits. This includes those who abandon their jobs. However, the reason for the resignation or job abandonment is taken into consideration and certain situations may allow a person to qualify for benefits. The person must show good cause or a compelling reason for abandoning his job. Compelling reasons include discrimination, harassment, threats of termination or choice of resignation and working conditions.
Employers must take certain steps in the event of job abandonment. Failure to take these steps could violate an employee's rights and allow her to file a wrongful termination claim. Employers must have an absence policy, including notification requirements, and when an employee fails to call or come to work, the employer must investigate the situation. For example, an employee might not be able to contact the employer if she was in an auto accident. Investigation includes telephone calls to the employee or her emergency contact. In addition, many employers send a letter to the employee that defines job abandonment, reminds the employee of the absence notification standards and outlines the consequences of failure to contact the employer, along with a time frame for contact.