Can I terminate my employment contract early without penalty?

I am a skilled employee who signed a contract for a 1 year term. Unfortunately I am unhappy in my position, and want to leave prior to the end of the contract terms. The contract contained a clause that my employer could terminate the contract early, however nothing was stated that I could do the same. No specific penalty was listed for breach in contract. The contract was never notarized and I did not sign in front of a witness.

Asked on October 18, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, South Carolina


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

There is no need to sign in front of a witness or to have the contract notarized; those are not required for enforceability. It also does not matter that the employer could terminate early, but you may not: contracts do not have to be reciprocal or fair. If you signed a one-year contract, you are bound to it; if you violate it, you could be sued for any costs your violation causes them. For example:
1) They need to hire someone in a hurry to replace you and have to go through a recruiter to do that: you can be held liable for the recruiter fee.
2) You (for the sake of example) earn the equivalent of $30/hour. To cover for you while they hire a new person to replace you, they bring in a skilled temp through an agency whcih cost them $45/hour. You could be sued for the difference (i.e. for the extra they are paying).
3) They fail to complete a job due to you leaving; they could sue you for the lost profit from that job.

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