By: Nancy E. Joerg, Esq.
Many employers call our law firm to ask how much notice they have to give an employee when they fire them. There is a widespread belief that employers will be violating the law if they do not give employees some kind of notice. Many callers ask me whether it is true that they must give an employee two weeks' notice when they fire the employee. The answer often surprises these callers.
There are absolutely no Illinois state laws or federal laws which require an employer to give any notice whatsoever to employees when they fire them. Of course, if a company's employee handbook contains a policy under which the employer has voluntarily instituted a system under which employees would be given a certain amount of notice, then the employer should follow their own policy.
Additionally, if an employer has an offer letter or contract pertaining to a particular employee which states the employer will give a certain amount of notice to an employee before firing them, then the employer should carefully follow the terms and conditions of the contractual responsibilities they have toward that employee.
If an employer is unionized, then that employer should of course follow the terms and conditions of their Union contract in terms of any notice required to be given to an employee upon termination.
WARNING ABOUT PLANT CLOSINGS AND MASS LAYOFFS: Employers must also consider the federal and state Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Acts. The federal WARN Act generally requires most employers with 100 or more employees to provide notification 60 calendar days in advance of plant closings and mass layoffs. The Illinois WARN Act generally requires employers with 75 or more full-time employees to give workers and state and local government officials 60 days advance notice of a plant closing or mass layoff.
The bottom line is that barring any legal responsibilities under the WARN Acts, under company policy, or under a contract, Illinois employers are free to terminate employees on the spot with no notice whatsoever.