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Can my employer retain "at-will" rights while removing mine?

Cincinnati, OH |

I have worked for a small business for nearly two years and they are having me sign a second Employment Agreement. I signed the first one without offering changes because I desperately needed a job. With this one, like the last, they are maintaining their right as per the state of Ohio to hire me "at-will." The issue I have with this is that they are also including a non-resignation clause that prohibits me from leaving for any reason for 18 months, and allowing them to seek damages in the amount of their choosing, regardless of why the employment was terminated. There is no written guarantee of employment for that time, only vague statements like, "we want to keep you." Would this agreement be valid, or like I seem to have found elsewhere, "invalid for lack of mutuality"?

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Attorney answers 5


Employers frequently reassert their position in an employment contract that the employee signing the contract remains an at-will employee. That specific issue may or may not become relevant if you lose your job at some point during the term of the contract.

The more relevant issue is that you should have counsel review any contract before you sign it. And, in a case such as this, wherein the employer indicates that they specifically want you to stay, there is a good chance that the employer is willing to negotiate if you hire counsel with negotiation experience.

Seek a consultation with local employment counsel and get someone to help you through this process.

Joshua Erlich is an attorney in Arlington, Virginia. His response to your question is general in nature, as not all the facts are known to him. You should retain an experienced attorney to review all the facts in your case in order to receive advice specific to your case. Mr. Erlich's statement above does not create an attorney/client relationship.


Contracts would typically need to provide mutuality of remedy as well as other reasonable terms here. If you have an employment contract that has a guaranteed term and your employer is seeking to unilaterally change it that would violate most contract loss. You do not have to continue your employment and could have breach of contract action

There are issues of unconscionability as well, contracts of it Sesion issues when your employer is basically not really giving you anything and value or consideration and has sort of an indentured servitude that you cannot quit.

This does not sound like an employer would want to continue to work for. Moreover again as to the original contract if it truly is an employment contract with guaranteed compensation for a set or definite. Of time imported cannot change. If however you are truly an employee at will that is a different story and you may really just be changing the terms of compensation. Unless there is something specifically about your Service to the company that is irreplaceable or would cause substantial financial arm left then I suspect that most courts would not enforce any such terms requiring you to pay damages for leaving the company

You should definitely tell your employer that you need to have an attorney review the contract and cannot and will not sign the contract under duress and without legal advice. Since your employer is requiring you to sign this contract you could also conceivably ask your employer pays for the attorney these to have it reviewed but I suspect they will not likely agree

The best advice is consult an employment attorney and do not sign anything at all under duress and without really understanding your rights and whether the action being taken by the employer is lawful

The hiring of a lawyer is an important decision and one you should not make just upon reading something. While I may generally provide some helpful information and an answer to your question, this is not meant to be direct legal advice to you. If you wish legal advice, many attorneys offer free consultations on certain legal issues. If you wish to be certain about how best to proceed to protect your legal interests then I encourage you to contact the lawyer with experience in the same area of law


I think this "non-resignation" clause is unenforceable. I doubt a judge would ever enforce it. You're not an indentured servant.

My responses/answers are not legal advice and should not be considered or relied upon as such. The purpose of my responses/answers are solely to provide help and guidance. No attorney-client relationship is intended to be established nor is one established by virtue of my responses/nswers.


They can't it both ways. I think a good argument can made you are not at-will if the contract goes on to specify that you stay on for a specific time period. If they fired you during the 18 month period you would have, I believe, a cause of action against the company for your remaining wages. Alternatively, I could also see a judge simply finding the non-resignation provision unenforceable.

The information you obtain here is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. This response is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship.


Ohio law states that employment is "at will." Your employer's policy does not override that law. They cannot force you to stay for any period of time.

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