Can my Dean not accept my letter of resignation and hold me through the term of my contract?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Can my Dean not accept my letter of resignation and hold me through the term of my contract?

Hello I went to the Dean of my college to give my letter of resignation and she
would not accept the letter and said that I am bound by contract to stay through
the end of 2018. She states she will not release me from my faculty contract
although others on my team have terminated their contracts mid term, without
issue. I am employed at a university in California.

I requested this early departure due to health reasons caused by the
overwhelming stress of my position that I do not anticipate to get better. Myself
and others in my department have requested administrative help and she has
denied it at least 3 times. I believe she is denying my resignation for selfish

My contract does not state the requirements of termination, but makes reference
to the Faculty Manual as to policy.
The Manual states
Faculty members may voluntarily terminate their appointments by resigning. As a
courtesy to the University and its students, resignations SHOULD generally be
effective at the end of the academic year, and faculty members SHOULD give
notice to the Dean in writing. The Dean will forward the letter of resignation to
the Provost, who will notify the faculty member as to the status of his/her
A medical reason is listed as a reason for departure.
My questions are
Am I bound by contract that implies that I am an ‘at-will’ employee?
Will a letter from my MD in support of departure, help my situation?
Thank you –

Asked on March 10, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Generally, a contract obligates BOTH sides for the duration or length of the contract: e.g. a one-year employment contract generally prevents the employer from terminating the employee during that year, and also the employee from resigning or quitting. Contracts can have clauses or provisions which allow one side or the other or both to terminate it early under some conditions or circumstances. Such provisions are enforced according to their exact terms, but also must be read in the context of the contract as a whole. The language you quote (e.g. "Faculty members may voluntarily terminate their appointments by resigning") implies you may resign whenever you want (especially for a medical reason), but you really should bring the contract to an employment law attorney to review in its entirety and in depth with you to confirm your right(s).

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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