6 months ago I came on board to an architecture firm and signed an offer letter. This offer letter clearly states that the employment is at will, and there is no length of contract described at all. The offer letter also stated that I have to give 30 days notice for resignation. Since my employment is at will, cant I give whatever time I want, say two weeks?
It depends on the exact wording of the contract. Specifically, I'd look for any clauses outlining penalties for your failure to give the prescribed notice. A typical example would be that sometimes employees have to refund any relocation monies or bonuses paid to them when taking a job if they terminate the agreement without the proper notice.
It may not matter if there is not proper consideration for the contract and the contract effectively establishes employment at-will, but without seeing the document, the lawyers on this site will not be able to say for sure.
New York state has the strictest interpretation of at will employment. You can be fired at any time. You can quit at any time.
That is the legal analysis. Now the question that you will have to answer is whether you care about burning bridges by upping and leaving with little or no notice.
If you signed an agreement that you would give 30 days' notice, but if the agreement did not state any penalty for NOT giving at least that much notice, it strikes me that there is not a whole lot your employer can do. My one caveat is that I have not seen the letter that you signed and the only real way to give anyone meaningful advice concerning any agreement is to actually review that agreement.
But here's what I think: Give your employer as much notice as possible. Obviously, it is always better to leave on good terms, and it just may be that you will one day want a positive reference from the employer.
Good luck to you.
Michael S. Haber is a New York attorney. As such, his responses to posted inquiries, such as the one above, are limited to his understanding of law in the jurisdiction in which he practices and not to any other jurisdiction. In addition, no response to any posted inquiry should be deemed to constitute legal advice, nor to constitute the existence of an attorney/client or other contractual or fiduciary relationship, inasmuch as rendering legal advice involves the ability of the attorney to ask appropriate questions of the person seeking such advice and to thus gather appropriate information. In addition, an attorney/client relationship is formed only by specific agreement. The purpose of this answer is to provide the questioner with general information, not to outline specific legal rights and remedies.
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