Can I break an employment contract without penalty?

I am a dentist who has been offered a very good job however the employer requires that I sign an 18 month contract. I have seen this from other practices but that usually includes a sign on bonus which is not the case here. I have been told that because my state has at-will employment that the contact is not enforceable. Is this the case. What if I have a personal reason to leave the job in 9 months?

Asked on November 8, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Texas


B.H.F., Member, Texas State Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Texas is what is considered an at-will employment state.  One side can't force another to stay employed when they no longer want to be in the employment relationship.  However, Texas does recognize and enforce employment contracts.  You can waive certain rights as an employee through employment contracts.  The penalty, if any, for breaking the contract will be set out in the employment contract, which varies from company to company.  The agreement will control.  Considering that this agreement could have negative consequences on future employment opportunities (i.e. through non-compete clauses, or repayment of relocation expenses), you may want to have an employment law attorney at least review the contract to make sure that you are being treated fairly and what your risks are (if any) in signing the agreement.

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