2501 - Absence Without Leave (AWOL)



Audience List

  • Labor Relations Officers
  • Personnel Officers


This policy:

  • Defines what constitutes absence without leave (AWOL).
  • Provides direction on the application of Government Code Section 19996.2 (the AWOL statute), including the requirements of:
    • The AWOL notice;
    • The informal “Coleman” hearing; and
    • Reinstatement from CalHR.


The AWOL statute provides, in part, that an employee who is voluntarily or involuntarily AWOL for five consecutive working days is considered to have automatically resigned from state service as of the last date on which the employee worked.


To invoke the AWOL statute, it is only necessary for the appointing power to demonstrate that the employee missed five consecutive days of work without obtaining leave. “Leave” means permission from the employee’s supervisor to be absent; it does not mean “leave time on the books.”


The following process should be followed when applying the AWOL statute:

  1. AWOL Notice: A written notice should be sent to the employee’s last known address.  This notice should be given prior to invoking the AWOL statute, and should contain:
    • the dates of AWOL;
    • the date the AWOL statute will be invoked;
    • the effective date of the automatic resignation (last day worked);
    • the right to request an informal “Coleman” hearing;
    • the timeframes for requesting the informal “Coleman” hearing and reinstatement; and
    • the right to request reinstatement from the California Department of Human Resources (CalHR).
      (A sample notice letter can be found under Resources below.) A “Proof of Personal Service” or “Proof of Service by Mail” must be sent with the notice.
  2. Informal “Coleman” Hearing: The AWOL notice should include an implementation date that allows the employee reasonable time to request a “Coleman” hearing before the separation is finalized. This hearing is informal and should be conducted by an impartial and disinterested representative of the appointing power (Coleman Officer). The term “impartial and disinterested” means that the decision-maker is someone not involved in the original decision to AWOL separate the employee. The decision-maker must determine if the employee was absent for five consecutive work days and if the absence was without leave. Once this determination is made, the decision-maker is empowered to sustain or rescind the separation.
  3. Request to CalHR for Reinstatement: The AWOL statute provides, in part, that CalHR may reinstate an employee if the employee makes a satisfactory explanation to the department (CalHR) as to the cause of his or her absence and his or her failure to obtain leave therefor. The employee must request reinstatement within 15 days of the formal  service of the notice of AWOL separation. The request may be made irrespective of whether the employee requested a “Coleman” hearing with his or her appointing power. Formal service is the date the notice was mailed or personally given to the employee. If the employee was not given a notice, the employee has 90 days from the effective date of the separation to request reinstatement.

CalHR will schedule a hearing within a reasonable amount of time to examine the reasons for the absence and why leave approval was not obtained. (The decision maker has already determined that the AWOL occurred; therefor, CalHR will not revisit that issue.) If CalHR determines that reinstatement is appropriate and that the employee is “ready, willing, and able” to return to work, CalHR may reinstate the employee. Back pay is never authorized pursuant to the AWOL statute.

Prior to invoking the AWOL statute, review the applicable Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to determine if it contains provisions at variance with this statement.


Dear (Employee Name):

Please take notice that effective (date in the future reasonably calculated to give the employee notice and opportunity to respond) (your department) intends to invoke the absent without leave (AWOL) statute (Government Code, § 19996.2) because you have been absent without leave for five consecutive working days. You have been absent from (date) to (date), and that absence was without leave.

If you disagree with these facts, you may request an informal hearing to be held prior to (specify the effective date your department intends to finalize the separation). To request an informal hearing, contact (name, address, phone number of the Coleman officer). At the hearing you will have an opportunity to explain why you disagree with this intended decision. If the AWOL separation is finalized, you will be considered to have resigned on (date), your last day of work.

Whether or not you respond to your department to request an informal hearing, you still have the right to file a written request for reinstatement with the California Department of Human Resources (CalHR), 1515 S Street, North Building, Suite 500, Sacramento, CA 95811, within fifteen (15) calendar days of service of this notice. You have five (5) additional days if the notice was sent by mail within California. If you file a timely request, CalHR or its authorized representative will hold a hearing within a reasonable time.









  • PML 1994-055: PML 1994-055 - 10/4/1994 - Procedures - - Automatic Resignations After Absence Without Leave (AWOL)

Contact Person

Personnel Management Division
Personnel Program Consultant, Personnel Management Division
Phone: 916-324-9381
Fax: 916-327-1886
Email: pmd@calhr.ca.gov

Authorized By

Melissa Russell
Chief, Personnel Management Division


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Table of Contents

1000 - Equal Employment Opportunity

1100 - Selection

1200 - Appointments

1300 - Exempt Employees

1400 - Benefits and Insurance

1500 - Work Schedules

1600 - Third Party Pre-Tax Parking

1700 - Compensation

1800 - Savings Plus

1900 - Bona Fide Associations

2000 - Collective Bargaining

2100 - Leave

2200 - Travel/Relocation

2300 - State Owned Housing

2400 - Employee Recognition

2500 - Discipline

2600 - Layoffs

2700 - Retirement

2800 - Training

2900 - Workforce Planning

3000 - Examination and Hiring

3100 - Drug-Free Workplace