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Patrick, Esq.
Patrick, Esq., Lawyer
Category: California Employment Law
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Hello - I have a question regarding rejecting a job after signing

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Hello - I have a question regarding rejecting a job after signing an employment contract. This new job is a consulting job which required relocating to another state. I've 2 issues preventing me from taking the job now. My ex is now against me taking the kids out of state although he had previously agreed and secondly, my current employer is flooding me with multiple great counteroffers . The contract states as such...
[3] You agree that you will take up this position (except on emergency situations) provided a decision is made within three business days from the date of interview. Any breach of any of these provisions [1] [2] [3] and [4] entitles us to recover from employee damages and injunctive relief. Employee agrees that because monetary damages are likely to be inadequate, We shall be entitled to temporary injunctive relief (by providing to court (laws of California, Alameda County) a likelihood of breach by employee) and to permanent injunctive relief (by providing to court (laws of California) such breach).
I'm really concerned now about the the possibility of being actually sued by the new employer when I do now decline the offer. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated
I signed the above contract prior to interviewing on Oct 31st. The same day I interviewed I was offered the job and verbally accepted. I signed the employment offer letter on Nov 27th and I am due to begin this new job on Dec 15th.
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: California Employment Law
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 5 years ago.
Hello and thank you for entrusting me to answer your question.

First let me state that neither I nor anyone else can predict what your prospective employer will actually do, I can only provide you with relevant legal information regarding a potential claim against you. People sue for unjustified reasons all the time, and this of course cannot be predicted.

The above in mind, "injunctive relief" is typically defined as "a court-ordered act or prohibition against an act or condition." An employer can NOT obtain injunctive relief requiring an employee to work for them, as this would constitute involuntary servitude and has been roundly rejected by this courts of most jurisdictions. Further, an injunction prohibiting an employee from working for any other employer would almost certainly ALSO be denied in the state of California on the grounds that the underlying agreement constitutes an illegal non-compete agreement.

Business and Professions Code section 16600 states: "Except as provided in this chapter, every contract by which anyone is restrained from engaging in a lawful profession, trade, or business of any kind is to that extent void."

The exceptions are a bit complex but include the following: (1) If an owner is selling the goodwill in their business (goodwill is the reputation and name of the business); (2) When there is a dissolution or disassociation of a partnership or (3) Where there is a dissolution of a limited liability company. There is also a limited exception for "trade secrets." None of these exceptions would appear to apply in a case where an employee simply backed out of an employment agreement just a few days after entering into it.

All of this said, an employer may be entitled to reasonable damages for the costs it incurs in finding a replacement for the position and may sue to collect damages from you on that basis. An employer will typically not be able to collect a "penalty" from you, as this would constitute a "liquidated damage" disproportionate to the harm actually caused, and for that reason would be illegal.

These are general principals of law that would typically apply in the type of situation you describe. I hope that this information assists you, but please bear in mind that none of what I'm telling you constitutes legal advice, nor am I making predictions about the course of action that your particular employer may take against you.

I wish you the best of luck.

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