Provided by: Jennifer Kirschenbaum, Esq.
May 15, 2014
I signed an employment agreement and was planning to relocate but because of personal reasons I now can't move and have to back out. What are the ramifications? I am scared. Please advise.
Generally, without reviewing your particular agreement, most physician employment agreements do not contain a "backing out" clause. Failing to perform on your obligations or terminating in accordance with the agreement would put you in breach of contract. The real question is whether your potential employer would elect to actually pursue you for the breach. When considering a lawsuit the question of whether to proceed is what you have to gain by electing that course. Most of the time the answer to that question is money, however, unless you signed a REALLY REALLY bad contract, the employer would not be entitled to liquidated (or agreed upon) damages as a result of your breach. Instead, the damages would have to be determined by the court - and would potentially include money expended to find a new candidate, money lost due to your refusal to start as planned - and would most likely be a small amount not worth pursuing. Another reason an employer may pursue you for the breach is on principle; the employer likely has more money than a resident or fellow leaving training and may elect to pursue just to force you to pay to defend. Also, your contract may have a "prevailing party" clause, requiring the prevailing party in the litigation to have their legal fees reimbursed, so the employer may believe he/she does not have much to lose. Counsel will likely advise the employer that award of attorneys fees is not guaranteed and pursuing may be more trouble than its worth.
Finding yourself in this situation is not desirable and I would recommend attempting to disengage on as friendly terms. Litigation may not be avoidable in all circumstances, however, it is not a likely result in most.
Call with questions or concerns; hoping you do not hear back from the employer once you relay the message!
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