I had a bonding agreement with my ex-company. One of the conditions was that after completing one year period in a foreign country I had to get back home and work for the company for one year (transfer knowledge). One of the the contract conditions was that I would have to pay certain amount of money if I quit before completing the contract. Before I got back they fired me and now want to sue me and get money from me. Do I still have to pay or can they sue me even if I didn't quit?
4 Answers from Attorneys
They can sue you for anything they want. Whether they have any chance of success is another question. Unfortunately that is not a question that can be answered without reviewing the relevant documents and the details of your termination. You should contact me or any attorney of your choice for a consultation with the relevant documents available. If you would like to meet with me, I maintain conference facilities in Palo Alto and Sunnyvale.
The terms of your written agreement determine that, look at them. It shouldn't allow suit if they terminate you without cause. Regardless, if they sue, you'll have to defend. Consult with a local litigation attorney.
Implied in any contract in CA is the covenant of good faith and fair dealing. In other words, a party to a contract cannot profit from preventing the performance of the other party to the contract. While express terms of the contract are important, this legal principle should control. As said above, the company can always sue, but prevailing is another question. And, since contracts generally have an attorneys fee provision permitting their recovery to the prevailing party, the company would likely be disinclined to sue. Good luck.
After three answers, all of which I agree with, what can be added? Not much. Here's a couple of minor thoughts:
1. California's legislative and judicial policy favors employment mobility and any employer that tries to handcuff an employee with repayment obligations has a somewhat stacked deck against it.
2. Contracts between employers and employees requiring reimbursement of training or education costs genuinely advanced by the employer have been around for decades, and there is no doubt some appellate-court law on the subject. I'd be the first to admit that I haven't read this case law, but if you ever retain a lawyer, he or she could quickly review what the appellate courts have said is enforceable against the employee, and under what conditions, and what is not enforceable because what an employee happens to gain in the course of employment as experience and job-related knowledge is the property of the employee, not the employer.
I don't think an employer can bill an employee for learning valuable skills and gaining experience while on the job. Employer-paid education is one thing, experience is another.
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