my former employer is requiring me to return to finalize my resignation — after I already left

A reader writes:

I’ve been working in customer service for a small company in California for the past three years and have just accepted a position elsewhere. I submitted my two weeks notice and letter of resignation and worked out a last day with the manager. Everything seemed to be in order, but my manager has informed me that I will need to come back a few days after my start date with my new employer to sign some paperwork.

She said it is to finalize my resignation and that there is no way to get it done before my last scheduled day. I have seen former employees come back after their last day to do the same but assumed it was because they tended to give only a few days of notice.

My new job is about half an hour away from my current employer, so I was really hoping we could get everything signed and finalized before I left. I don’t want to be the person who has to ask for an extended lunch two days after their start date. But I was also told that even if they could get the paperwork done in time, I would still need to come into the office to pick up my final check (they have a strict policy against mailing it out) and to have a “wrap up” meeting with all the managers.

This was my first job out of college, and to be honest I have no clue what usually happens in this situation. Is this normal?

No, it’s not normal. Your company has no claim on your time once you’re no longer working there. If they want to do a wrap-up meeting, they need to do that before you leave the job.

If you’re still working there, I’d say this: “My schedule once I leave is going to be very packed, and I won’t be able to come back in to sign paperwork or do a wrap-up meeting. I’d be glad to do that meeting before I leave, of course, and you can mail me anything that you need signed, but I won’t be able to return after my last day.”

Regarding their insistence that you pick up your final paycheck in person after your last day, there are two problems with that: California law requires that resigning employees who give at least 72 hours notice (which you did) receive their final paycheck on their last day of work — and also allows resigning employees to receive that final paycheck by mail if they request it. So this “you must come in to pick up your check after your last day” violates the law twice.

I would say this: “Oh, actually, state law says we should issue my final paycheck on my last day.” If you don’t feel strongly about that part of it, you can add, “But it also allows employees to request that it be mailed, and that’s fine with me if you prefer to mail it. But we need to do one of those two things since I won’t be able to return to pick it up.”

If you’re not still working there by the time you read this, just slightly tweak the advice above. For example: “My schedule is very packed, and I won’t be able to come back in to sign paperwork or do a wrap-up meeting. You can mail me anything that you need signed, and I’ll take a look at it. Also, please put my final paycheck in the mail. I know you don’t typically do that, but California law actually requires it for final paychecks when employees request it. Thank you.” (And if they give you a hard time about that, be aware that California law says those wages were due to you on your final day, and the state imposes steep penalties on employers who are late with that final payment.)

And as for whatever it is that they’re asking you to sign … Don’t assume you have to sign it. Read it carefully and decide if you want to sign it. At this point, they don’t have any leverage and they presumably aren’t giving you anything in exchange for signing, so it’s not a given that you should.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 193 comments… read them below }

  1. Episkey*

    Well, that’s strange. Not sure why they are so big on making leaving employees return other than to be a PITA.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Or are hoping to pressure LW into signing documents without having the leisure to read them ahead of time.

          1. rr*

            Yeah, and if this is a Normal Thing, then, well, it’s a *normal thing* to sign it, so why are you hesitating to read it, just sign!

            What on earth needs to be signed when you are no longer an employee of the company, but doesn’t need to be signed when you are, mystifies me.

        1. Honeybee*

          Yeah, this was my thought. There’s just something very fishy about the whole thing, and the consistency of it, and their odd refusal to let people email/fax/mail it back. What if people move out of state after they resign?

    1. INTP*

      I agree, super weird. I think they’re probably just spectacularly disorganized and too inconsiderate to offer other options (mail, fax, email, etc) to get the paperwork done on time, but I also wondered if it’s a foot in the door thing. When she shows up prepared to do paperwork, they’ll spring some other kind of work or a meeting or something on her “while you’re here.”

      Either way, I agree with AAM, offer alternatives you would be comfortable with (mail, fax, etc) and say you can’t show up.

  2. the gold digger*

    Yeah, I can’t see that there is anything you would have to sign if you resign. When I was laid off, I had to sign papers to get my severance, but in my last job, after I resigned, HR told me I had to do an exit interview. I told them that no, I did not. I did not do an exit interview and I lived to tell the tale. :)

    They can’t make you do any of that stuff. It’s your choice.

    1. Clever Name*

      Seriously. My last employer wanted me to fill out an exit questionnaire. I left it completely untouched on my desk. The also wanted me to sign some agreement where I promised not to share any of their secrets (fine with me- I knew of no secrets, and the way they did stuff sucked, so I would never ‘steal’ their process) and that I would be responsible for their legal fees if they decided to sue me, even if they lost. Not cool. So I signed that but crossed out the paragraph about me footing their legal bill and initialed and dated it. I’m sure that move raised eyebrows at HQ, but I was so out of there.

      1. Elle*

        Well that’s pretty dumb of them. We have new employees sign the Confidentiality Agreement on their first day, not their last!!

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          It would be pretty funny if a departing employee did what Clever Name did with her agreement, except everywhere it said “I promise not to . . . ” they crossed off the “not” and initialed and dated it, leaving the document to read, “I promise to steal Company’s ideas . . .”

          1. Karowen*

            I knew someone who signed a non-compete but no one checked the details, just that there was ink on the line. The guy wrote something like “I will not sign this” on the signature line and filled out his name…no one ever called him on it.

      2. Honeybee*

        Why…why…why would anyone agree to be responsible for a company’s legal fees if the company sued them? Why?

        1. Jez*

          Also keep in mind that pretty much any time you’ve clicked an “I accept” box, browsed a website with Terms of Use, or signed something without reading it, there is nearly always a term indicating that you will indemnify, protect, hold harmless, and/or defend the company that put those terms forward.

          So while most people wouldn’t consciously agree to it .. most of us have!

        2. bob*

          I would strongly suspect that is completely unenforceable. I’d be surprised if the company lawyers even know that language is in there.

          1. Rmric0*

            Total lawyer move – make your argument seen bigger and stronger than it really is so they try to settle out. Sure it probably would not hold up in front of a judge, but it probably will not do them much harm

    2. INTP*

      I think I’ve signed things confirming that it was a voluntary resignation effective X date, but it was nothing remotely difficult to throw together. One job had me type my own and sign it which took about 5 minutes. There would be no valid reason for a company to not be able to put it together with a few days notice. It sounds like they have to process the same paperwork for every resignation so they should just have a template on file that they can fill out with names and dates.

      1. INTP*

        (And I doubt that there was any way for them to REQUIRE me to sign the above paperwork, I just did so because I was, indeed, leaving voluntarily and it seems reasonable to sign something attesting to that. It’s for the employer’s protection so if they can’t get it together on time I don’t see what OP could lose by not signing it, other than a reference if they are that committed to being unreasonable.)

      2. rr*

        Yeah, that’s what I was thinking. If they do this every time, it’s a system, not an emergency. Just move up the days on the system.

    3. Artemesia*

      I would not sign anything. What possible purpose can be served by that. That is quite apart from being required to return, which is stupid. Unless they are actually providing a hefty severance there is no requirement to sign or return or whatever. You are free when your two weeks are up. Anything they want done can be done your last day — and I still wouldn’t be signing any paperwork. (and exception might be something like a receipt that shows you have turned in all equipment assigned to you that THEY sign and you keep a copy of)

      1. Mike C.*

        Yeah seriously, I can’t think of anything good that would come of this and a million bad things.

    4. Michelenyc*

      When I was laid off from last job it was handled so badly on their end I had to laugh. The self appointed HR guy told me that Steven forgot to lay me off on Thursday (New Years Eve). Come to find out it made him feel bad to let 2 people go on the same day. I was actually resigning that day anyway and it as fun telling him great I already have a new job. Now I don’t have to and I can get unemployment for a couple of weeks! Thank you so much!

      1. Michelenyc*

        What I meant to say was, “Now I don’t have to resign and can collect unemployment for a couple of weeks.”

          1. Michelenyc*

            It was awesome. Even though I was only getting 1 week of unemployment I filed anyway. Just so I could annoy them with the paperwork.

    5. Laura*

      When I left a job in October, I was quitting after working there less than a year, so I owed the company part of my relocation bonus (unfortunately I had signed something to this effect). Due to financial hardships, I felt coerced into signing their confidentiality/non-compete agreement, as it would “give” me $200 which eased my financial burden toward the company.

      Never again.

  3. LiveAndLetDie*

    This sounds exceptionally poorly organized on the part of the company. OP gave them plenty of notice, there’s no reason they couldn’t get that “wrap-up meeting” done before their last day. And as for sending the check, you would imagine the company is aware of CA’s laws on the matter…

    1. NK*

      Since it’s a small company, I’m wondering if they’re actually not aware. I wouldn’t be surprised if no one has pushed back on this before. Of course, they absolutely should be aware of this!

      1. INTP*

        When I resigned from a small company in California, I told them that they were required to cut my final paycheck, and my manager corrected me and said “Not if you get direct deposit.” I didn’t bother arguing because I didn’t need the money immediately and that dismissiveness was a primary reason I was leaving so I just wanted to be done, but there are definitely managers under all kinds of weird ideas about what is legal (especially transplants from other states who think they can treat California employees the same as their employees in Nebraska or wherever), so this is a possibility.

        1. Michelenyc*

          When my last company let me go self appointed HR guy told me we will just maail your last check and said you will absolutely not mail my last check. I will either pick it up on Friday at 9 am regular payday or you can process it as a direct deposit as you have always done. They were notorious for not taking care of things in a timely fashion and there was no way I was going to wait for my last check.

        2. Jadelyn*

          Ugh…yeah so in California, an employer actually *cannot* use direct deposit for someone’s final check *unless* the employee specifically authorizes it. CA DIR says that direct deposit is considered terminated immediately upon separation of employment and the employer is required to give the employee a check (or mail it, if requested), unless the employee specifically requests use of direct deposit for their final pay. There really ought to be a crash course in California-specific employment law for out-of-state transplants who want to either manage people or work in HR.

          1. LQ*

            I’d be willing to bet that plenty of the people who are getting it wrong are not transplants and just don’t know the law.

          2. Stranger than fiction*

            Yeah that’s what I always thought. This company seems to not know how to term an employee period let alone cut the last check.

        3. lowercase holly*

          umm i think that is probably not true at all. i’m in CA, my assistant just left, he had direct deposit, and they gave his a physical check his last day.

      2. Karowen*

        I also wonder if the small company factor is impacting the not-having-the-final-meeting thing. Like if they “require” that the owner be there, but they’re on vacation. Still stupid, but a possible explanation, maybe?

  4. Dawn*

    “Make your resignation official”

    What does this even mean? It sounds like one of those situations where you’re breaking up with someone and they say “No, you can’t break up with me, I don’t agree.” Quitting your job is *unilateral* (unless you’re in a union or in a contract or whatever).

    So what happens if you don’t “make it official”? They still pay you? You can still claim you work there on your resume? You’re still on the office email list?

      1. INTP*

        Actually, if they don’t consider her a non-employee until she has signed the paperwork, they WOULD have to pay her for her time showing up to sign the paperwork (or for that entire day, if she’s exempt, iirc). And then they’d have to cut her a check for that time by EOD to comply with the law.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          And if she’s hourly, I’d charge them for travel time, since they’re the ones who “demanded” her presence there.

          1. fposte*

            So then she’s still an employee and would have to come in to sign that she’s not a *second* time, and then she’s still an employee for coming in to sign that and they have to bring her in to sign *again* and so on through eternity.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            Call in pay? They called you in, OP, so they owe you a minimum number of hours.

    1. Ro*

      Lol! I gotta think the first day you stop reporting for work there “makes your resignation official”. You should be able to (politely) decline to participate in their backwards processes. Good luck!

    2. rr*

      Funny story, I once didn’t get taken off the office email list when I left. I had to call the help desk afterwards and get that fixed.

      1. many bells down*

        I resigned a job once after they promised me full-time hours and then left me off the schedule entirely for 3 weeks. Four MONTHS later, after I’d found a new job, they called and asked me to come in. They legitimately thought I was still their employee and had just been … sitting by the phone waiting, I guess.

      2. Connie-Lynne*

        It is very common in my industry to get one final midnight page because someone forgot to disable a rarely-used (and therefore rarely-maintained) escalation list.

        1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

          It wasn’t rarely used but I had that happen to me. 9 o’clock on a Monday night. But I wasn’t angry – that was a place I left under peaceful, cordial conditions, just suggested they call someone else and the next day I told someone who maintained the list – directly – “you forgot to take my name of it.”

      3. Audiophile*

        I was on a school’s emergency and school closing’s list for the longest time because they just forgot to take me off. I was gone more than six months before someone remembered to update the list.

        1. Ruffingit*

          I still receive the emergency closing and fire drill emails from the community college I taught at two years ago.

          1. KR*

            I received those for months after graduating high school. They came at 5 am which was my real problem – that and I was working at a job that started at 4:30am so they were either calling me at work or calling me on my day off when I was sleeping.

      4. Glasskey*

        Geez, last week it was the poor soul who couldn’t get ONTO the contact list after 2 years on the job and now we examples of the exact opposite!

  5. Gandalf the Nude*

    I guarantee there’s a way for them to get all that paperwork together before employees’ last days. They’re either being lazy or vindictive (more likely lazy, Hanlon’s Razor, and all).

    If they insist that it’s really not possible to prepare before you leave and can’t be mailed, let them know they can bring the paperwork and meet you near your new office on your lunch break. If this paperwork is so vital for their records, they can pay an active employee to get it completed instead of taking up your time that they don’t have anymore claim on. (Don’t say that last part to them. It’s just something to think about.)

    1. Clever Name*

      Heck, make them meet you at your new office if they want the paperwork signed so badly.

      1. Terra*

        I’d be tempted to ask for a consulting fee for the time it takes to read and sign the paperwork and attend the meeting. I doubt it’d end up being all that necessary when it’s going to potentially cost them money to get done.

        1. INTP*

          Or at the least, point out that if they don’t consider you to have officially resigned until you’ve signed the paperwork, they must pay you for the time you spend signing the paperwork (or the full day, if exempt). And that they must provide you with a check for that time immediately with it being your final day.

      2. Karowen*

        That would be pretty hilarious. Or, if you don’t want to take the chance that they’re crazy enough to say okay and then show up at your office, tell them you can meet at a location near your new office.

  6. Casak*

    I am dying to know what the company would have the employee sign AFTER he/she leaves. That’s so odd.
    OP, keep us updated!

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        With the former employee’s motivation to sign such an agreement being…?

        1. Bleu*

          Probably getting that last paycheck. That seems to be how this employer is rationalizing (and getting away with) this whole thing — the resignation isn’t “final” until the papers are signed, and the last paycheck isn’t cut until the resignation is final. It’s like they’ve layered in several steps so many employees really won’t think they have any choice if they want that paycheck.

          1. Doriana Gray*

            This. OP, send your former employer a copy of the state law showing they owe you your check on your last day, reiterate this fact to them again in your own words, and then call it a day. These people are playing games, and you don’t have time for it.

  7. BRR*

    This whole thing is weird/dumb. Essentially you need to tell them the polite version of “too bad.” Alison’s language is perfect. This is a need on their end, not on your end. They have no power over you. The only thing might be they could refuse to provide a reference (they can’t provide a false reference but they can just refuse to provide one in general which you might need since this is you first job out of college). Also if they want a wrap up meeting they would have to pay you for it which I’m going to guess they don’t do.

    I’m also strongly agreeing with Alison’s last part about reading what they want you to sign. If you’re not sure about it, don’t sign it until someone else looks it over. My best guess is that it will contain language and clauses that only benefits the employer. You can absolutely refuse to sign it if there is no benefit to you.

    1. Artemesia*

      The example above of agreeing to pay their legal expenses if they sue you is a classic; I would not sign anything that was not clearly a benefit to you.

  8. Alanna*

    Am strongly tempted to make my second Hotel California joke in a week. But seriously, what is up with employers who think they actually own people?

    1. Slippy*

      I think it stems from many states in the US having weak worker protections. It isn’t hard to make the mental slip into owning someone when you hold a great deal of control over their financial (and by extension) social stability.

      1. Kobayashi*

        California, however, where the OP works, has pretty STRONG worker protections (some might say California is actually unfriendly to businesses in general).

        1. Jadelyn*

          In my experience, the only time you hear the claim that California is “unfriendly to businesses” are from those who would like to be able to exploit their workers more than California law allows for and are thus resentful of California’s strong worker protections, so…nah. California is only “unfriendly to businesses” when compared to the supremely low bar set by Federal-level worker protections.

          1. Kobayashi*

            Well, I’d disagree with that assessment, but I don’t think this is the venue for that discussion.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I think plenty of employers have legitimate concerns about complying with a set of laws that in some cases are significantly more onerous and numerous than they’d find in other states. That doesn’t mean that they want to exploit their workers.

        2. Mike C.*

          Hard to argue that it’s business unfriendly when you have tons and tons of start ups in Silicon Valley.

          1. LawLady*

            No, it’s still possible. Start ups are a type of business. They generally require paying a few people decently high salaries (which they could command elsewhere), and not dealing with significant untrained labor. So yes, I suppose it would be better to refine the statement to “California is unfriendly to some kinds of business.” But it’s definitely not broadly “business friendly.”

            1. Payroll Lady*

              CA is considered an “employee state” for payroll purposes. The laws do benefit the employee much more than the employer. With that said, it really is not that difficult to abide by them. I’m in NJ and have done CA payrolls for over 20 years. As for the OP going back to sign paperwork and to pick up their final check, the penalty for a late paycheck (not received upon termination) is 8 hours pay for EVERY day it is late… If the OP leaves on a Friday, and doesn’t go back until Wednesday, guess what, the employer now owes her 5 days additional pay. OP I would definitely get a copy of the state laws from the CA DOL and give them to your employer. If they are doing business in CA, there is no excuse for NOT knowing the laws.

  9. Muriel Heslop*

    This sounds like my first school district employer. They said I “had” to do an exit interview and do some paperwork to “finalize the resignation.” Um, no. It’s summer, and there is no contract. They called a lot but I just never went in, and they mailed my paycheck (not in CA.) I assume it’s not affected my future employment because I’ve never heard anything else about it.

    So curious about this situation. Update us, OP!

  10. animaniactoo*

    Thought process: When your employer is paying you, they can dictate how you spend your time – they’ve bought the right to that. If they aren’t paying you for it, they don’t own it, you do.

    (I would seriously like to see someone ask them “And you’ll be paying me for the time that I’ve come back to work on this?”, and see their response to it.)

    1. Snowglobe*

      But if they pay you, you’d have to come back in to collect THAT paycheck, and on, and on….

      1. Fafaflunkie*

        No, they would have to cut that cheque that very moment. If I were put in this situation, I would be bringing along a very high-priced lawyer along with me, letting them know I’ll need to consult with him/her before I sign anything. The fee will also be required on top of my time. The lawyer would also require you, ex-employer, to be held criminally responsible in case the cheque gets returned for any reason. After all, cheque fraud is a criminal offense…

  11. Annalee*

    I wholeheartedly agree with Alison about reading the paperwork carefully and deciding if you want to sign it. They’re using pushy tactics to convince you you have to do this, which is a big red flag. I’m going to take a wild guess that this “essential” paperwork is a contract that will bar you from doing things they don’t want you to do, like disparage them, recruit coworkers, work for competitors, sue them, file for unemployment, etc.

    It’s common for companies in many industries to try to force employees to sign agreements like that in order to get hired or get severance, but since you’re already gone/leaving for another gig, they have no power to force you to sign. They know that, too–otherwise they wouldn’t be trying to illegally withhold your final paycheck in order to get you to cooperate.

    1. Mreasy*

      Yes. I had an employer withhold a final paycheck and expense check until I signed an NDA post-resignation. Then I had a law student friend help me draft a letter using scary language about my rights, and how I knew them, and they mailed my checks without further mentioning any paperwork. It’s possible they’re disorganized, but it’s also possible they’re trying to get you to sign some sort of NDA-type agreement and want you there in order to pressure you (and of course, will imply the leverage of your final paycheck to do so as well).

    2. neverjaunty*

      Yes, this. Though they’re not “trying” – they actually ARE illegally withholding your final paycheck, OP.

      As AAM says, OP, you should contact them immediately and insist that they send you your final paycheck immediately. If it were me, I’d have already reported them to the DOL before I made that call, but you may not want to bother.

    3. TootsNYC*

      But why can’t they put that together before the OP leaves? They’ve got 2 weeks, and surely it’s the same thing for everybody. Just change the name and date.

    1. Serafina*

      ACK, yes, beware noncompetes! That could theoretically let them sue you just for having your new job!

      1. Florida*

        The problem is that the employer can still sue you, which means you have to invest time and hire an attorney. Even if you win the lawsuit eventually, who wants to deal with that?

        Don’t ever sign a non-compete.

    2. ElCee*

      Yes, this. Even though NCAs are unenforceable in California, I can see a company banking on an ex-employee not knowing this detail.

  12. JMegan*

    I have been asked twice to sign things after leaving an organization. Once was a report on what I learned during my time there, at which point I found out that the job had been an internship, and that I should have been told about the report before I started. Well, I hadn’t been told, and I wasn’t about to sit down and dig through my memory six months after the fact. So I didn’t do it.

    The second time was a final performance evaluation, which was apparently was required of all exiting employees, and should have been done before I left. I have no idea if it actually was a requirement of the organization, or just a requirement of my particular manager – either would have been both unusual and fully plausible. I also don’t know why my manager couldn’t have done it before I left, but whatever. I wanted to maintain a good relationship with her, and, *most importantly* it took two minutes to do. She wrote the evaluation and emailed it to me, I added comments to the effect of “I really enjoyed my time there, bye now,” signed it, and emailed it back. If it had been any more of a time commitment than that, I wouldn’t have done it. And I certainly wouldn’t have gone back to the office to do it, regardless of what they said. I had moved on, and if they couldn’t get together to complete their “exiting employee checklist” before I left, that was their problem, not mine.

    TL;DR – yes, it’s pretty unusual for them to require you to come back for any reason, after you have already left the building. I would decide how important it is to *you* (not them!) to cooperate, and how much time you’re willing to put in, and leave it at that.

  13. Shell*

    I have the feeling that if the OP does acquiesce to their request (she should not), the wrap-up meeting will culminate in a guilt trip from the old company’s managers going all “how could you leave, we feel betrayed, blah blah.” And the documents to be signed will be a bunch of agreements about no disclosure, no recruiting other coworkers, or other crap that should’ve been signed long before OP left. And of course all this would be on the OP’s own time. Screw that.

    There is no reason why the entire company’s managers need to attend a wrap-up meeting after the employee has left. If it’s so damn important, they’ll make time before OP’s notice period finishes.

  14. Hermione*

    Alison, do you think your answer would change any if the OP really needed this place as a reference?

    1. neverjaunty*

      The company is engaging in wage theft. I don’t think acquiescing to that (rather than the polite response AAM suggests) is worth any reference.

      1. Serafina*

        Since the OP will literally no longer be an employee of the company at the time of this “finalizing”, there is no reason he/she should feel compelled to sign anything (i.e a noncompetition agreement), correct?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Correct! I’d just not return it to them — no need to make a big deal about it. But if they follow up and ask her for it, then she should say something like “I didn’t feel comfortable signing it as a former employee.” Or just a cheerful “No thanks!”

          1. Chriama*

            The ‘no thanks’ is my favourite response to annyoing or unreasonable requests. It’s not a direct answer to the question (can you sign this non-compete, can you give me your email address so I can annoy you with stupid coupons forever) but somehow leaves the asker powerless to resist. And for people who are uncomfortable being confrontational (which a lot of askers bank on), it forces the asker to get explicit in a way that makes the unreasonableness of their request too evident to slide by. It’s great!

              1. Chriama*

                See, that’s a little too adversarial for me. “No thanks” makes it sound like they offered to do something for you (want a coffee – no thanks! want to sign this non-compete agreement – no thanks!). They were asking *you* to do them a favour and you responded as if they’d offered to do you a favour instead. It’s really a matter of preference but I love how it throws the asker for a loop for a second.

  15. Chriama*

    Sounds like the manager is just disorganized and didn’t get all the hr stuff sorted out ahead of time. Be aware that pushing back might tick them off because they now have to embarrass themselves in front of HR by admitting their procrastination. But either way, they have no claim on your time and it’s an unreasonable request. If the documents are important to them then they would do it before your last day. No documentation for a departing at-will employee takes 2 weeks to prepare.

    1. neverjaunty*

      And by “the HR stuff” we mean “the OP’s wages, which she was owed on the last day she worked there, and which they are refusing to send her.”

      1. F.*

        Actually, that is Payroll or Accounting’s responsibility to prepare the final check, not HR’s.

  16. Gwen*

    RE: Them needing you to sign a form that won’t be ready until after you last day – as a coworker of mine likes to say, “That sounds like a ‘you’ problem.”

    1. Noah*

      That was my exact thought. If they need you to sign something, they can produce it prior to your departure. Otherwise, they are at your mercy.

      1. Jerry Vandesic*

        They need to give it to you beforehand so that you (and possibly your attorney) can review it. It is usually unwise to sign a document you have never seen before and has been shoved in front of you.

    2. justsomeone*

      Do you work with me? I’ve been saying that phrase a lot lately (mostly in jest, and to my husband, but still….)

  17. pandq*

    I process payroll for a number of employers in California. It’s odd what some employers think the law is.
    Employees who have to wait for their final check can file a claim with the Dept of Industrial Relations in California for “waiting time penalties”. Proof can consist of proof of when you gave notice, copy of the check with a date later than the last day worked on it, copy of the envelope with the postmark, or a combination of all of the above. Many times the employer will pay the penalty (which, being a penalty is not subject to withholding) – because they honestly did not know the law. If they choose to appeal, then yes, it can take a long time to be resolved, but this first step is always worth it to the former employee, in my opinion.

      1. pandq*

        The one I’ve heard most often is that the employee who is leaving can be paid along with everyone else the next payroll period, and via direct deposit. It is also very common for employers to want to make deductions from the final check for various things the employer feels entitled to. They may indeed be entitled, but can’t deduct it from the check (in California) without the employee’s written permission. This doesn’t count a payroll advance, which presumably the employee already agreed to. I don’t know how an employee could deal with an employer deducting expenses though – I don’t think it’s covered under the same procedure as the late paycheck.

        1. videogamePrincess*

          Now I know–if someone asks for written permission to deduct expenses, I will just tell them no. Although, if written permission is all that’s necessary, how come employers don’t require employees to sign something at the beginning of employment? I thought the “not deducting from paychecks” was a right you couldn’t sign away.

        2. Jadelyn*

          Maybe it’s a non-Californians problem – since that is the law in most other states (re paid at the next regular payroll), outside people who don’t know California is different?

          1. NotMyRealName*

            I know that’s not true in Wyoming. You must be paid within 5 business days of your last day.

        3. Mocha*

          Question–I live in California and, when I quit my last job, I gave 2 weeks’ notice, but my boss flipped out and was like “Well fine, forget two weeks, your last day can be tomorrow.” (My workplace was WILDLY dysfunctional for a number of reasons–I had no idea exactly how dysfunctional it was, since it was my first job out of college!) So my last day was the next day, and I was paid via direct deposit at the end of the payroll period about a week later. This was several months ago and obviously I’m not going to go back and try to claim waiting time penalties, but out of curiosity, would I have been entitled to them even though I left before the 72 hour notice period was up, since I did give two weeks’ notice?

            1. Mocha*

              Interesting, thanks! I do have documentation that I waited a week for my final paycheck, but it looks like the process would involve a conference in court with my old employer, and I would really like to avoid that. But it’s good to know that I have the option.

          1. Eric*

            In this case, it is because you were essentially fired, rather than quitting, the 72 hour requirement doesn’t apply.

    1. Zahra*

      Wow, the burden of proof is rather low. I think that if I worked in California, I’d always send a notice of my resignation by email, cc’d to my personal email address. Of course, call or talk to your manager first, but get that paper trail going, because most employers don’t know the law and you don’t need reels and reels of documentation to get the penalty.

  18. Bookworm*

    OP, when you find out (and if you’re comfortable) will you share exactly what it is they need you to sign that can just be printed out on your last day?

    I’m…genuinely confused. Seems like this would be more work on their end, so I’m trying to figure out what they’re thinking. (And why they believe a resignation needs to be finalized.)

    1. Letter Writer*


      I’ve actually asked a few of my old coworkers (1 retired and 1 who resigned) what the heck it is they want me to sign because I, too, have no idea what it could be. The person who resigned said it was just a whole bunch of confidentiality agreements( she was a salesperson who left to work for the competition) and a very big guilt trip from the managers. (The president even told her to watch out because she wouldn’t be welcomed back and her new employer fired people “like crazy”).

      The person who resigned didn’t really read the papers so he couldn’t say.

      But yes, I definitely plan to read everyone verrrry carefully!

      1. Shell*

        Yup. I knew there was a guilt trip in there. Knew it.

        Seriously, if they can’t even muster up the organization to guilt trip the departing employee while she’s there, and have to make her come back for the guilt trip? That’s really sad.

        1. Kelly L.*

          It makes me think of MLM. Some of those companies have “exit interviews” that are mostly guilt trips designed to keep you from returning your inventory, the real motive for which is that it costs your upline money when you do.

      2. Jerry Vandesic*

        DO NOT sign any confidentiality agreements once your are gone. You have no obligation to do so, and they have no leverage at this point. Any agreements could only hurt you, so don’t do it. If they try to get you to sign something, take a copy and say that you will get back to them after you have the documents reviewed by your attorney. Then simply file the documents away and don’t bother responding to any follow ups from your former employer.

        “The person who resigned didn’t really read the papers so he couldn’t say.”

        Don’t pay attention to this person. If they signed the documents without reading them, they are an idiot.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          Eh, if they were retiring, they could have assumed they won’t be doing business with anyone at all, so who cares? (It’s clearly the one who retired who said that, not the one who resigned.)

          1. Honeybee*

            Because there can be all kinds of hidden clauses in there that you don’t know if you don’t read them, and also because no one can know the future…you can think you’re retiring and then, for example, get an opportunity to consult for a competitor.

        2. Michelenyc*

          Everywhere I have worked required you sign NDA/non-compete with all of your new hire paperwork. I work in product development/R&D so it is pretty standard with most reputable companies. If you did take a job with a competitor you were escorted out the next day with your last pay check and the standard we appreciate the 2 weeks but no thanks. I do know the designers I have worked with have a completely different non compete that they sign. It does make sense to me. I am currently working on fabrics for Spring 17.

          1. Jerry Vandesic*

            I agree. Having a new employee sign a non-disclosure/non-compete/non-solicit on their first day can make sense. I have done it many times. But having them sign on their last day, or after they have left, makes zero sense (at least for the employee). Unless there is some significant trade-off, e.g., a good severance package, the response to any signing any legal documents after leaving should simply be “no.”

        3. Amber*

          yeah I don’t understand why if they want to use a confidentiality agreement, why don’t they have you sign it when you’re hired?

      3. Stranger than fiction*

        No don’t sign and don’t go at all. You’re under no obligation. If they hold your check, that’s on them and they’ll owe you penalties.

      4. Artemesia*

        Why would you sign any of that? I wouldn’t. Be charming. Be cordial, but just say ‘oh I don’t see any reason to sign this.’

        1. Connie-Lynne*

          Yes exactly! “Oh, I’ll look this over later, thank you.”

          Then, look at it while you chuck it in the trash.

      5. Honeybee*

        I really don’t understand the purpose of these guilt trips. Do they live in some kind of fantasy world where people work for the same company their entire lives and never resign or move on to other places?

  19. Kanye The Giant*

    Yeesh. I get used car salesman vibes from this. I am looking forward to OP’s update.

    I’m wondering if there’s something shady in the papers they want OP to sign and they don’t want OP to realize it or, something that may not have been mentioned yet, to have a copy of those papers. Might explain the seemingly deliberate creation of a time-pressured situation (no time to think/process; you want to leave!) and the refusal to mail or fax anything. I hope this idea is overly dramatic and wrong.

    1. the_scientist*

      I’m on the same page. I’m thinking that they are going to play (more) paycheque games with the OP. By making her come in person they can “force” her to sign the documents in order to get her paycheque. They can’t do that obviously, but they could be betting on high-pressure techniques getting them what they want…..whatever that is. I’m sure that’s a worst-case scenario interpretation, but I just can’t think of another real reason to do this. Most likely it’s just due to massive disorganization, but I would love an update to this!

    2. videogamePrincess*

      I would err more on the side of disorganization. As someone said above, they might not know what the law is, and this way of doing things worked without hassle before, so why not now?

  20. ElCee*

    The last company I worked for that made you collect your check in person did so because direct deposit would cause the paychecks to bounce. This company counted on the checks being cashed on different days.

    1. rr*

      I wonder how much longer that company stayed in business, if they were relying on tricks like that to stay afloat.

    2. irritable vowel*

      Conversely, I considered cash flow issues as the reason why this company does not want to have to cut a check on the employee’s last day–if normally they would not have to have that money available in the payroll account for another couple of weeks. Poorly managed small vendors that rely on large payments for services provided to other companies in order to stay afloat do have this reputation for living extremely close to the edge of not being able to make payroll.

  21. Letter Writer*

    Hey, letter writer here!

    Thanks to everyone for reading and commenting! It so happens that this Friday is my last scheduled day so I’m going to talk to my manager today about getting everything ready. I don’t want to burn any bridges but you guys are spot on about the disorganization here. It’s actually kind of a tense environment so I’m more than a little eager to start my new job.

    We actually don’t have any full time HR people. The president and office manager do all the hiring/firing/final paperwork themselves so I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that they just aren’t aware of the laws. I’m going to try the gentle but firm, “My schedule is very packed” approach.

    Thank you so much for the help Allison and commenters!

    1. Elle the new Fed*

      Please keep up posted on how it works out! I’m hoping it will go smoothly for you.

    2. stk*

      Good luck LW! That does sound like hopefully speaking nicely but firmly will do the trick. And if not, as everyone else has said, what can they do, fire you? :D

    3. Erin*

      Sorry I did not see this before my comment, good luck! Definitely assume ignorance over malice. Please write Alison back an update so we know how it went. :)

    4. Wilton Businessman*

      Yes, it could be they are like 99.9% of HR departments in the world and are very disorganized.

      1. F.*

        First of all, the OP said the company does not have an HR person. Secondly, could we please stop making generalizations and snarky remarks about HR departments? A number of us who read and comment here are HR professionals who work very hard to provide good service to our employees. I do understand that there are good and bad HR practioners, but it is unfair to tar us all with the same negative brush.

    5. rr*

      LW, in this case, their disorganization could work in your favor. If they want to pressure you to sign something, it’s actually easier if you aren’t working there anymore and could give them a “thanks but no thanks, so busy”. If you’re sitting in the room, that means you’re still there to be intimidated.

      They want to put you on a guilt trip? “Sorry, guys, I’m already on a trip… TO A NEW JOB!” ;)

    6. Wilton Businessman*

      Give them the old “I must be going blind, because I can’t see signing that!”

    7. Meg Murry*

      After you talk to your boss, send an email as a recap. Something like “as we discussed, California law requires that you give me my paycheck on my last day or mail it if the employee requests it. This message serves as my request for you to mail my check to [Address]. Regarding any final paperwork, any items that are not ready by [last day, leaving hour] can be sent by FedEx or UPS, along with a pre-paid return label to the same address as above.”

    8. Colette*

      I actually wonder if one of the reasons you have to do it after you start your new job is that they’re planning to pressure you for information about your new job (employer, salary, etc.) – which you do not have to provide, of course.

  22. Erin*

    Wow. You have official confirmation they’re breaking the law, OP.

    If you’re no longer there and are corresponding via email, I would find where online the law is spelled out, and include a link when you explain what’s up.

  23. Ask a Manager* Post author

    One of the lawyers here should correct me on this if I’m getting it wrong, but there’s a legal concept called “consideration,” which basically means that for a contract to be valid, both parties need to be getting something from it (in some cases, “continued employment” — although I think not all of them — can be the thing you get from it). Asking her to sign a non-compete or confidentiality agreement or non-disparagement agreement or whatever after she’s no longer working there probably means the agreement wouldn’t hold up in court anyway, unless they give her something too — severance, a mutual non-disparagement agreement, or whatever).

    Lawyers, come correct me if needed, please!

    1. Wilton Businessman*

      I was actually in a similar situation one time. Owner of the company came in one day and said “I need everybody to sign these non-compete agreements” after working there three years (I was employee #2). I talked to a lawyer, and agreement is not valid without “consideration”. Consideration is not keeping your job (or at least wasn’t in NC at the time), it was something monetary; ie. signing bonus, eligibility for a annual bonus, raise, something you weren’t getting before.

      So employee #2 found a new job.

      1. DLW*

        I am a lawyer (and a judicial law clerk who has read tons of non-compete agreements) and continued employment is consideration in most states. (In several states, including mine, a person must be employed for at least two years after signing the agreement for it to be enforceable regardless of whether the person is fired or quits.) However, if she is no longer employed, they would have to provide some other form of substantive consideration for any post-employment agreement to be valid.

        That being said, I would not sign any post-employment agreement. Even if it’s not enforceable, you don’t want the headache of fighting that.

    2. animaniactoo*

      NYC here, and that’s how it works here. When they instituted non-compete ndas (that’s non-disclosure in my case) they paid everybody something like $100 each to sign. I consulted a lawyer at the time and they said I was free to propose an alternate compensation, or decline altogether, but since I was being offered compensation it was completely legal for my company to require me to sign it and it would be a binding document.

      One person tried to negotiate a raise and was forced out when they wouldn’t give her as large a raise as she wanted. They couldn’t force her to sign it, but they also didn’t have to keep her if she was declining the consideration they were offering.

      1. Audiophile*

        I wonder how non-competes and NDAs work in the rest of NY. I was asked to sign one on my first day of a new job. I signed and made sure I got a copy. I don’t anticipate any issues later on, but I’v never been asked to sign one for another job.

    3. neverjaunty*

      I’d be reeeaallllly hesitant to say “that would never hold up in court” without specific details, and then there’s the issue of maybe having to go to the courts to prove that an agreement isn’t enforceable. THAT SAID, I have no idea how the company intends to enforce any such agreements. As you say, she’s not an employee, so it’s not as though LW can agree to anything as a condition of her job, and what would they be giving her in return?

      (Also, non-compete agreements are not an enforceable thing in California.)

    4. bridget*

      Yep, that’s basically correct. If she comes back after she’s ended her employment, and they want her to commit to a non-compete or a confidentiality agreement without any consideration in return (in most jurisdictions, “continued employment” counts, but isn’t relevant for the LW), the contract isn’t valid. That’s why a lot of companies offer severance when they otherwise wouldn’t – it’s consideration that makes a release of claims or other contract signed at termination valid.

      She still shouldn’t sign anything, because if they tried to sue on it she’d have to bring lack of consideration as an affirmative defense, and it’s easier to just have them not have a piece of paper at all. Also, lots of contracts that don’t really have any consideration have a clause that says something like “Letter Writer, for due and adequate consideration, hereby agrees to …” and then she’d have to explain why she signed something that says she received consideration when she really didn’t. [**LW, I am not your lawyer. :) :) ].

    5. Jerry Vandesic*

      My current employer requires a non-compete in order to be eligible for a bonus payout. Since bonuses are discretionary, the non-compete isn’t tied to employment (which doesn’t count as consideration in some places). In addition, this also limits the non-compete to higher level management, which to my mind is a good thing (limiting employment options for lower level workers is not fair or right).

    6. Rick Tq*

      If this is California Non Compete agreements are banned by law for anyone not a partner or the company owner. I found the following two excerpts (top two hits on a search engine):

      California. Business and Professions Code § 16600 provides that “every contract by which anyone is restrained from engaging in a lawful profession, trade, or business of any kind is to that extent void.” Section 16600 invalidates agreements to preclude employment in a certain line of work. The section has also been construed by California courts as invalidating agreements that seek to prevent former employees from accepting work from any of the former employer’s clients.

      Not only are non-compete covenants void in California, but an employer may be liable in
      tort for wrongful termination if it fires an employee who refuses to sign an employment
      agreement that contains an unenforceable covenant not to compete. D’Sa v. Playhut, Inc., 85
      Cal. App. 4th 927 (Cal. Ct. App. 2000). This rule holds even if the agreement contains a choice-
      of-law or severability provision. Id. at 934. The concern is that the presence of an unenforceable
      non-compete covenant in an employment agreement may have an undesirable deterrent effect on
      employees who do not know their rights under California law. “[I]t is not likely that [the
      defendant’s] employees are sufficiently versed in California’s law of contracts such that they
      would know (1) that the covenant not to compete is invalid and therefore not enforceable by [the
      defendant] and (2) that they could sign the agreement without fear they would be bound by the
      covenant not to compete.” Id.

  24. Programmer 01*

    I had to do something similar once — return to the office a week after being laid off (project shipped) to sign things. However, they made my ship bonus contingent upon signing the document, which said a lot of things like I wouldn’t speak poorly of them, blah blah blah. They went under three years ago, I’m not exactly worried their ghost will rise from the dead and haunt me with lawsuits. Plus I’d already let people know how poorly they treated their employees (fake performance reviews to deny raises, refusal to believe people were at work on days they were at work and key-carded in so the log clearly stated yes we were at work?!, delaying employee paychecks once we ran over budget, etc), so it was really closing the barn door after the horses had fled.

    I do sign NDCs as part of regular business and some of the wording was non-disclosure, but since the game had shipped, I… don’t know what was left to possibly disclose?

    I probably should have had a lawyer look at it, but I was exhausted from crunching for three months straight (including weekends), pissed that the company was doing the “Hooray, game’s done! Hooray, you’re all fired!” BS, and my ship bonus was significant (and honestly, I didn’t care about having the right to tell the world they were a crap place to work or not), so I signed and collected my check and never went back again.

    PS: Hi I am ok just low energy, I read when I can but haven’t been up to commenting for a while.

      1. Programmer 01*

        Gamification Used For Evil is the one that’s really bothering me right now, although SXSW’s “let’s cancel everything because Gators — whoops I mean add an entire day to address online harassment” comes close. At least that one went from bad to really good and can be held up as an example of how to do things.

        (Why is it every industry, even those only 30 years old, has to deal with the exact same crap showing up as institutionalized issues? It’s almost like we don’t learn from everyone else…)

    1. Buu*

      Ahh video game industry how I love thee. Once I was on a rolling temp contract we all got laid off when a project subbed. No one told the producer who was out of town, they came back. Game failed cert and we were all sheepishly called in again and offered work. I went in…and did nothing since IT had locked all our computer accounts. I just thought it was neat I got free money whilst I waited for a job offer elsewhere to get finalised. The best part was I could have logged in and done work via generic training accounts we used to train new staff. Those weren’t switched off at all. I wasn’t going to tell them that though. By the time they sorted it the game had gone again and I was off to pastures new.

  25. Not So NewReader*

    I hope everything lands well for you, OP. It seems that you are well fortified with what you need to know to handle the situation. Let us know how it goes for you.

  26. Lisa*

    It must be something that can’t be signed while she is still in their employ. They use the paycheck as a hook to get people to come back in and also to sign whatever it is. Sneaky!

  27. No longer new commenter*

    My guess is that they believe they don’t have to pay the employee for the final pay period unless she complies with their demands. I wouldn’t return after quitting for a high-pressure meeting at which the OP probably won’t receive her paycheck unless she signs the poisoned paperwork. I’d normally be concerned about preserving a reference, but since the company told the other employee who left that they won’t take back resigning employees, they probably tell people who call to check references that the ex-employees are ineligible for re-hire, so the OP couldn’t use them, anyway.

  28. Ted Mosby*

    They should take you no longer coming to the office as a hint that your resignation is final.

  29. Girasol*

    Is there any chance that they liked you so well that they wanted to surprise you some sort of special goodbye gift that didn’t arrive in time?

  30. Floate*

    LW, in this instance, their lack of organization can operate in your favor. If they intend to pressure you to sign something, it’s in fact easier if you typically aren’t working there any longer and also could possibly offer them a “many thanks yet no thanks, so active”. That indicates you’re still there to be frightened if you’re resting in the room.

  31. Enantiomeria*

    My first job did this! Except they went one further and asked me to come in to ‘finalise my resignation’ after they fired me.

    I’m in Australia and this retail store employed me as a ‘casual employee’ – basically this means you get paid hourly at a higher rate than full-time and part-time workers, but you don’t get any of the benefits those workers get. I couldn’t accrue PTO or anything like that and the store managers weren’t required to give me notice or pay severance if they decided to let me go.

    For two weeks or so I didn’t get any hours, so I called the manager to find out what was going on, and was told that casual workers would no longer get any hours because they cost too much. Teenage me made the reasonable deduction that no more hours = out of a job, so I updated my resume, got a reference from my favourite supervisor, and started searching.

    Four weeks later I get a phone message from the manager I called saying that I need to come in and fill out paperwork to confirm my ‘resignation’ and take myself off their schedule. I never called her back.

  32. NicoleK*

    At Old Job, a part time employee got the hint that her new boss wanted her gone asap. So part time employee resigned and gave two weeks notice which new boss accepted effective immediately. Part time employee’s boss requested that she come back for the exit interview. Surprising part time employee (now former part time employee) actually came back and completed exit interview a week later. No way in hell I would come back for exit interview if that had been me.

    1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      I had a worse one. I had resigned. They said I could leave a day early (Thursday). There’s a wonderful dinner table story in that but we will defer that for another time.

      My exit interview is Friday at 1. I confirm that. I go home. I go back on Friday at 1. HR rep stands me up.
      OK lady, thanks for messing up my day. So I had an interim week off – I’m working on a construction project with my father, we’re in the middle of constructing a fence.

      Phone rings. “Can I come in?” NO. “Can we do this on the phone?” I said yes, but I can only give you five minutes.

      Didn’t matter, the place was a hell hole, they knew that so the exit interview accomplished nothing – except they seemed to be concerned over whether a co-worker left behind was looking. I said “talk to him.”

  33. Jimbo*

    This happened to a friend of mine and it turned out they forgot to get her to sign the papers releasing them from future lawsuits. This was supposed to be done in order to get severance but her manager forgot. I told her I would tell them to pound sand but she signed it. Her reasoning was her manager was pretty good to her and a reference so refusing to sign would reflect badly on the manager.

  34. Staci*

    You can actually search the web for “final paycheck California”, if that is your state, and it will take you to the labor code. If you give more than 72 hours notice, they need to give you your check the day you leave. If you give less than 72 hours notice, they need to pay you within 72 hours of they day you left. They risk paying a penalty if they do not pay you within the law. Same goes if you get fired or laid off, they should pay you everything owed that day.

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