How to Prove your Employee’s Intent to Abandon Their Job

abandon his job

How to Prove your Employee’s Intent to Abandon Their Job

In the last post, we discussed the difference between AWOL and Abandonment. We mentioned that Abandonment deals with intent and the state of mind of the employee who left without any advice. In this post, we’ll tackle typical signs that we look for to show the intent to abandonment.

Why it’s important to prove abandonment?

Your employee can only be held liable for AWOL or absence without leave if the only fact present was that he was not at work. Are there any indications of an intention to abandon? Until that is established with credible evidence, you may not be able to replace him right away as you would be duty-bound to go thru the different penalty classes your handbook dictates. Stated otherwise, unless you prove abandonment, you would be stuck and unable to terminate the employee and make room for a replacement.

This is the equivalent of a legal limbo. You’re neither here nor there. You’re not sure whether you still have an employee, and yet, the work delegated to that employee doesn’t get done. This ain’t a good place to be in. And you can’t afford to be kept in this position for long.

Proving abandonment gives you the legal right to act on the employee’s absence and subsequently consider the employee’s position vacant. Once you go thru the process and you prove abandonment thru a disciplinary process, then you can safely proceed with filling in the position with a new employee or delegating the responsibilities to your remaining team members.

What do we look for?

Here are the different ways to gather and develop information that tends to show your employee’s state of mind with respect to their work and whether they intend to go back. All of these means should be used to deliver 2 essential messages:

  1. What happened to your employee? What caused him to miss work; and
  2. Report back to work immediately.

Here are the methods to deliver these two messages:


The first line of defense for me is an immediate attempt to get in touch with your employee. How? The fastest means there is… the phone. Try to call their cell or landline to find out what happened. After that, the next most important thing is to give them the directive that they have to get back to work. It would be important to document what happens here so you have a written reference to refer to afterward.

Unofficial Reach Out

If there are remaining employees who are good friends with the employee who went on AWOL, you can try to get information on what happened by asking them to check in on the AWOL employee. Ask your current employees to ask the AWOL employee what happened, and ask him to report back to the office before things get crazy. Be sure to document what information you get from this.


You can email your employee if they can access their accounts from outside the office. You can send orders to get back to the office and to find out what happened why they are not reporting to the office. I like email because you can prove it was sent properly, and if for some reason it bounces back from the inbox of the recipient, you’ll be notified as well. No mystery there, just plain verifiable facts.

SMS or Text

In addition to emails and calls, feel free to text your AWOL employee to come back. What I love about this method is that it is easy to implement, and it also leaves a document trail which you can track and refer to afterward. Again, focus on finding out what happened, and order the employee to come back.

Written letters

The most reliable way to establish the intent to abandon is the good old printed letter sent via registered mail or private courier. Indicate in the letter that you are ordering the employee to report back to work immediately. Be sure to save proof of sending this letter to the last known address, and you’re good. Multiple attempts at sending this would probably be a good idea to ensure receipt. HR practitioners typically refer to this document as “Return to Work” orders.

What should I use?

My philosophy for evidence is the more, the merrier. You can use a combination of the methods to generate a clearer and more comprehensive picture of the situation. We are just trying to give the employee a chance to come back if that is their intention. If they still refuse to do so, then we have successfully created a situation where there can be no mistake that the failure to come back is intentional.

How does this post help you clarify your AWOL policies and protocols? I hope that this allows you to have a better understanding of your options if an employee goes AWOL.

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