If I was hired as a subcontractor by a company, do I have a right to quit if I can’t relocate?

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If I was hired as a subcontractor by a company, do I have a right to quit if I can’t relocate?

The original plan was to work on an hourly basis with a per diem for a couple of months to cover my housing and travel until I relocate my family (400 miles away), then change to a different hourly rate. I haven’t been successful because my wife hasn’t been able to find a job here (6 months have passed, and we both need to work). Do I have a legal right to find another position back home and quit this position because of that? Can I collect unemployment? My rights aren’t spelled out in the work order, but being away from my family has caused both an emotional hardship as well as a real hardship with the needs of 4 children.

Asked on August 3, 2011 Wisconsin

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

1) Unless you signed a contract or agreement stating you would complete a given project, work for a certain length of time, etc., you may quit at will. If you did sign a contract, then you are bound by its terms; if you breach it, you may be sued for damages (e.g. for the cost of hiring someone to complete a project, or for the company's loss of revenue if they can't deliver on time). It's also possible that if the company "put itself out" in some significant way to hire you (e.g. took on a contract it otherwise would not; passed on some other candidate) based on your representations you'd stay with them for a certain minimum period, that even without a contract, you may be liable. But in the absence of such a contract or such reliance by the employer, you may quit freely. (Of course, they could truthfully tell others in the industry what you did, so you need to weigh any impact on your career.)

2) As for unemployment, if you were an employee and you have worked enough to qualify for it under your state's rules, you should be able to claim it; if you were an independent contractor, not an employee, I don't think you can, though you should still contact the unemployment office to inquire.

3) The hardship on you is irrelevant to the issue of unemployment and whether you can quit.


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