It is probable that California law will control interpretation of the contract. It is also possible that a California court would find that the $5,500 penalty clause is not enforceable either because it is unconscionable or as an invalid penalty/forfeiture. On the other hand, a court might determine it was reasonable. Liquidated damages clauses are governed by Cal Civil Code
1671. (a) This section does not apply in any case where another statute expressly applicable to the contract prescribes the rules or standard for determining the validity of a provision in the contract liquidating the damages for the breach of the contract.
(b) Except as provided in subdivision (c), a provision in a
contract liquidating the damages for the breach of the contract is valid unless the party seeking to invalidate the provision
establishes that the provision was unreasonable under the
circumstances existing at the time the contract was made.
(c) The validity of a liquidated damages provision shall be
determined under subdivision (d) and not under subdivision (b) where the liquidated damages are sought to be recovered from either:
(1) A party to a contract for the retail purchase, or rental, by
such party of personal property or services, primarily for the party's personal, family, or household purposes; or
(2) A party to a lease of real property for use as a dwelling by
the party or those dependent upon the party for support.
(d) In the cases described in subdivision (c), a provision in a
contract liquidating damages for the breach of the contract is void except that the parties to such a contract may agree therein upon an amount which shall be presumed to be the amount of damage sustained by a breach thereof, when, from the nature of the case, it would be impracticable or extremely difficult to fix the actual damage.
So. Assuming that you have the burden of showing the penalty is unreasonable, you might be able to do so. I cannot predict how a court would rule on your contract but the penalty seems quite harsh and it may not be valid.
It seems arguable that the clause may be invalid if it allows the employer to not pay you agreed wages upon termination of employment. You can ask the Cal. labor commissioner if that office has a position on the validity of such clauses. You can find the labor commissioner's office nearest you at http://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/DistrictOffices.htm
I hope this information helps.