“Can my employer refuse to let me resign?”

Question: I’ve been working in a company for almost five years. Between the first and second years, I was appointed the Treasurer for the company. I admit I do have my back logs, but I also must say my employer constantly gives me more things to do, so of course I do not get everything done.

At one time, I decided this is not the line of work for me, and I wanted to resign. However, my boss said that first we must submit all financial documents to an auditor to see if I got money from the company, or in order for me to be cleared in all money obligations before giving me certification.

The worst thing is that until now, my salary is on hold and all of my benefits, too. I want to tell my employer again that I want to be “out” now. But I know he will insist again that we have to wait again until the auditor is done with our papers. But I want to resign now because I am not happy anymore in their policies. 


Answer: Dear Trevor: Though I am not licensed as an attorney in Norway, I have done a bit of research on Norwegian law on the internet in preparation for this answer. These are my thoughts:

1. No one can force you to remain an employee; that would constitute a kind of slavery, which is clearly prohibited in Norway, as it is in most countries. An employer cannot refuse your resignation, or make you remain on the job. Forced labor is not permitted in the vast majority of countries in the world, and Norway is among them. In my own internet search, I have found nothing in Norwegian law that says you must continue to serve an employer when you do not want to do so anymore. While it may be wise to consult an attorney in your city in Norway, I rather doubt he or she will tell you anything different.

2. Even if you agreed in a Contract to remain in your job – which you have not indicated is the case– you are always free to leave your employment, but if you do so in violation of an agreement, you might have to face certain consequences. Some employees have committed themselves to work for their employers for a certain period of time, either in an employment agreement or in a union contract. Other employees have agreed to give a certain minimum notice to their employers, commonly two, three or four weeks. These employees often think that, no matter what or how badly they are treated, they must remain in their jobs until the time they agreed to stay. That is incorrect. The clearer view is that, an employee can always leave a job before the agreed time has elapsed, but in that case, he or she may – possibly – have to bear the consequences of doing so.

Those “consequences” might entail (a) an agreed penalty, (b) loss of unvested stock or stock options (we call that a “forfeiture” provision), or (c) even a lawsuit claiming damages. You have not indicated that any of these exist, or are likely, in your situation, and in fact they are exceedingly rare, but these and other possible “consequences” are things you should be aware of and consider before resigning from any job, and  then leaving, prior to an agreed termination date.

3. Want a guide? Just do what is (a) right, and (b) right for you; never be intimidated or coerced. From what you have written, and how you have written it, you sound like a very dedicated and sincere employee, and I admire you and salute you for that. The world sure needs more of those, just as it needs more responsible and fair employers! However, I do think your actions should be “guided” by two “stars”: (a) what you believe is “right,” and (b) what is “right” for you and your family.

At work, “navigating” yourself to do the best thing can be confusing. The wisest path forward is always to “navigate” primarily according to these two “guiding stars,” while bearing in mind the simultaneous need to be respectful of the rights, needs and sensibilities of others. This will result in the best way to proceed whenever your path forward is full of doubt. While employers will sometimes act in an overbearing way to try to get you to ignore what is right and what is right for you and your family, you should never be, or act as if you are, intimidated or coerced. Should “fear” knock on your door, send “faith” to answer it.

4. And when you resign, do it “right” and carefully: (a) in writing, (b) with respect, and (c) with professionalism. As in everything you do, how you do it is a reflection of who you are. Resigning is more complicated than most people think it is. In fact, one of the most popular articles on our blogsite is “Resigning from Your Job: The 21 Necessary Precautions.” [To read it, just click on its title.] Take care to resign carefully, and chances are you will accomplish the “transition out” from your employment in the best shape and to your maximum advantage.

Trevor, the Model Letter Section of our blogsite offers three levels of assistance to resigning employees:

Our 100-Point Checklist for Resigning – if interested in obtaining a copy, [click here].

Two Sample Resignation Letters – if interested in obtaining copies, just [click here].

Our “Ultimate Package for Resigning” – if interested in all our Model Materials – [click here].

For great info and insight, consider viewing our 12-minute Sklover-On-Demand Video entitled “Resigning from Your Job – What to Do, How to Do It.” To do so, just [click here].

Thanks for writing in, all the way from Norway. While I love to help employees in all aspects of their work life, I must admit that I especially enjoy getting inquiries from those “far away” from my own home, yet “close enough” to be of service to you.

Al Sklover

P.S.: If you would like to speak with me directly about this or other workplace-related subjects, I am available for 30-minute, 60-minute, or 120-minute telephone consultations. (Even 5-minute “Just One Question” calls). Just [click here.] Evenings and weekends can be accommodated.

Repairing the World –
One Empowered and Productive Employee at a Time ™

© 2012 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.

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