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Contract language for terminating the agreement

Reading, PA.
I about to sign a contract.
Does the following terminology from the termination section of the contract mean that I have to stay the full time even in an "at will" state?
'Termination by Employee: The employee may
> terminate
> > this contract only at the end of a term, with or
> > without cause, and then only upon one hundred and
> > twenty (120) days advance written notice delivered
> > personally or by certified mail to one of the
> owners
> > of the hospital at the employer's address listed
> in
> > this agreement. If the written notice is sent by
> > certified mail, it must be restricted to be signed
> as
> > received by at least one of the owners of the
> > hospital, and it must be signed as received at
> least
> > one hundred twenty (120) days prior to the end of
> the
> > term of this agreement.
> > Termination by employer: The employer may
> terminate
> > this contract at the end of the term, with or
> without
> > cause, and then only upon at least sixty (60) days
> > advance notice delivered personally or by
> certified or
> > registered mail to the employee's address as given
> to
> > employer from time to time. in the event that the
> > employer terminates the employee, the employer
> shall
> > be obligated in that event to pay the employee
> > compensation up to the date of termination as long
> as
> > the employee is still working."

2 answers  |  asked Jan 18, 2002 02:25 AM [EST] in Contracts  |  applies to Pennsylvania

Answers (2)

Francis Fanning
penalty for early termination

I must disagree with the answer given by David Lira. I know of no caselaw that prohibits two parties from freely entering into an employment contract for a set period of time. It is not involuntary servitude at all, but rather voluntary servitude. The "at will" concept in employment contracts is a presumption. A presumption is a legal device to use in interpreting a contract that does not contain an explicit provision about the issue at hand. In a typical employment contract, there is no provision dealing with when the contract will end. In such a case, the presumption is that the parties intended the relationship to be terminable at will by either party. But nothing prevents parties from reaching a different agreement. One exception to the concept of at-will termination is a contract for a specific period of time. There are cases in Arizona and elsewhere that hold that an employer must have good cause to terminate such a contract prior to the end of the period.
The reason this contract does not amount to involuntary servitude is that, as with any contract, you are free to breach it and suffer the consequeces. So, if you quit prior to the end of the agreement, you will be liable for damages, just as the employer would be for terminating you prior to the end of the agreement. This raises all kinds of other issues, such as who breached the contract first (assuming the employer does something that makes you want to quit), how much damage actually results from the agreement, and so forth. But there is no reason I can see for hesitating to agree to these terms. If you are hired as an "at will" employee and move to Arizona from Pennsylvania, what happens if the employer decides to fire you after a month? I would insist on some promise of job security before moving across country, and it's only reasonable for the employer to insist on a similar commitment from you.

posted by Francis Fanning  |  Jan 18, 2002 9:02 PM [EST]
David M. Lira
Involuntary Servitude

If your quote from the argeement is accurate, I think your best course of action would be to find a job with someone else. You are just asking for trouble taking a job with this hospital. If you sign this agreement, you are almost certainly buying yourself a lawsuit. You'd probably win the lawsuit, but it would probably cost you a lot in legal fees to win.

The agreement is one sided, but, worse, the first part of the quote indicates that the employer has never heard of the 13th Amendment. The 13th Amendment eliminated slavery. It's been around a while.

I've seen some case law saying that the 13th Amendment basically prohibits employers from locking in an employee. Employers cannot prohibit employees from leaving them. Employers might, under the right conditions, prevent employees from going to work for competitiors, but locking in an employee to a particular employer, even for a limit term, is considered a form of involuntary servitude, which is prohibit by the 13th Amendment.

Boy, there must be a very tight labor market for people in your position. That, or this employer is worse than I think.

posted by David M. Lira  |  Jan 18, 2002 7:06 PM [EST]