Never Burn a Bridge

012211-jt-daleDear J.T. & Dale: I am a contracted teacher at a school. My 10-month contract states the employer reserves the right to terminate me without cause as long as they give me 30 days notice. Can I assume I have the right to break the contract too, as long as I give 30 days notice? — Ray

J.T.: The contract should clearly state the resignation process. If not, and you have a teachers’ union, it might be included in those guidelines. If you can’t find it in either place, then you can assume you can quit at any time. You wouldn’t even be required to give notice.

Dale: On the assumption that nothing involving the law is ever that straightforward, I double-checked with our favorite employment attorney, Scott Gordon of the Rodey Law Firm in Albuquerque, N.M. He agreed with J.T.’s assessment, and added: “There could be some penalty associated with resigning in the middle of the school year or not giving advance notice, but probably not. Most contracts like these don’t bother with the penalty for early resignation because it’s so hard to get money out of someone who just resigned.”

J.T.: However, looking beyond the legal issue, it’s always wise to give at least two weeks notice, if you want a good reference.

Dale: And yes, Ray, you really do want a good reference, even if you already have another job or you’ve decided to leave teaching. A future employer, one you’ll encounter years from now, one you haven’t even met yet, may talk to your former employers, and you want those employers to remember you as a class act.

Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a professional development specialist and the founder of the consulting firm,, and of the blog, Dale Dauten resolves employment and other business disputes as a mediator with Please visit them at, where you can send questions via e-mail, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10019.

© 2011 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

One Response

  1. Corey Says:

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