Frequently, employees call me and tell me with breathless excitement that the employer is violating some law, the caller knows it and then they pause. They seem to expect me to say, "well, then, ignore them" or "well, ok, then tell them to jump in the lake." …. No, we cannot say those things.
I sympathize with the caller’s plight. But, unless you have a court order in hand, or unless they are asking you to perform an illegal act, you have to do what the employer says. Period.
We see this in a case described by a pro-employer blog, Texas Employment Law Update by Russ Cawyer: Uranga v. Nationwide. This is a decision rendered by the state court of appeals in El Paso. The employee worked for Nationwide from 2003 to 2005. The employee claimed he was not paid overtime; he believed the employer was acting in bad faith to build a record to fire him; and that he was about to be paid off. So, he quit. Meanwhile, the employer had been trying to meet with the agent to discuss perceived performance issues. On three occasions, the employee failed to appear for these meetings. The employer then came to understand from others that the employee had stopped coming to the office for two months and had removed the computer equipment. Mr. Uranga apparently quit. He applied for unemployment benefits. But, Nationwide argued that the employee had abandoned his job.
The El Paso court found in favor of the employer. The supervisor sent a letter to Mr. Uranga saying he had abandoned his job. There is no mention in the report of Mr. Uranga formally quitting. There is no indication that he objected to the letter from his supervisor. Yes, even when you believe you are being treated unfairly or unlawfully, you, as an employee, need to tell your employer that you are quitting.
If an employee quits for good reason, s/he might receive unemployment benefits. But, here, Mr. Uranga could not even show that he notified the employer that he had quit. Apparently, there was no letter, no memo, no note. And, he missed a few meetings with his supervisor. These are all good reasons for termination. If he felt he was owed overtime pay, then he should have filed a complaint with Department of Labor or Texas Workforce Commission. You cannot just ignore a boss you believe is violating the law or mistreating you.