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It sounds like what auto renewed was a "term" contract. That is, a contract in which you promise to remain employed for a set period of time and in which your employer promises to employ you for that same length of time. If this is the case, and if your contract does not contain any provisions addressing early termination or resignation, you would typically be in breach of your term contract if you left prior to the expiration of that term. In other words, if you entered into a one year term contract and you left at six months, you would potentially be liable to your employer for the early resignation.
The damages that arise from this sort of breach usually aren't significant. The employer generally can't claim recruiting costs, since they would be incurring those costs eventually even if you waited until your term contract expired. But if they are left shorthanded and suffer profit losses while scrambling to fill your position, that would be a recoverable form of damage. Likewise, if due to scrambling for a replacement they are forced to hire someone at a higher rate of pay, that too would be a recoverable loss. If there is an attorney fees provision in your contract which entitles your employer to recover their attorney fees, those would also be recoverable in the event they sue. (Note that without a clause specifically entitling a part in this circumstance to attorney fees, the law does not automatically prescribe that right.)
So, you certainly can breach your term contract. You just need to assess the exposure you are creating for yourself if you do so. The best way to minimize that exposure is by providing your employer with as much notice as possible that you intend to leave and when you plan to be leaving. Plaintiffs in breach of contract lawsuits have an obligation to mitigate their damages. That is, they have an obligation to do whatever they can to limit how badly they are harmed as a result of the defendant's breach. By providing your employer with as much notice of your plans to leave as possible, you are limiting what they can claim in damage, since most if not all of that damage would be avoidable.
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