Can the employer ask me to commit to employment for 3 years because they will invest time in training me for the job?

UPDATED: Aug 28, 2011

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Can the employer ask me to commit to employment for 3 years because they will invest time in training me for the job?

I received an employment offer where I was asked to commit for 3 years so that the company could benefit from the training I am given on the job. Here is the exact term, “I would ask that you give us a minimum of a 3 year commitment to stay on at the co. so we could ultimately benefit from the extensive training, assistance and support invested in getting you where you would need to get to in order to be a true IT account manager with a high degree of technical knowledge to properly support your clients IT needs and expectations.” Is this legal? Can I or the employer ever break it?

Asked on August 28, 2011 New York


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

An employer can definitely ask you to commit to working there for a set amount of time, as consideration for receiving a job and/or training. This is a contract: the employer makes you offer--for a job, contingent on agreeing to work there for 3 years--and you can then accept the offer, reject it (and not take the job), or try to negotiate something better (though if you try to negotiate, that's a rejection of the initial offer, so the employer could take the offer off the table and not hire you).

The contract is enforceable as per its terms--so if the contract does not obligate the employer to actually employee you for 3 years, they could terminate you earlier; i.e. depending on the terms, you may be the only one obligated.

If the employer makes it effectively impossible to do the job you were hired for--i.e. the job which is the basis for the agreement--at some point, that might give you grounds to terminate the agreement without penalty.

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