June 23, 2015

Hi Jennifer,

I have been in discussions with a potential employer for some time now. I have a contract in hand but am having second thoughts.  I have another offer that just came around I would prefer to take.  Can I back out from the first employer?  What are the risks?

Appreciate your insight.   

Dr. I

Well, the good news is the ink has not dried yet and you have not contractually obligated yourself to the position.  Backing out now will likely subject you to the most obvious risk - burning a professional bridge.  Notifying a potential employer late in the game you are not accepting a position may cost you the relationship, but better to call of the wedding than enter into a doomed marriage. IF the employer substantially relied upon your acceptance based on representations made by you, and you have placed the employer in a bad spot as far as recruitment goes (no replacements available now because you took so long to bow out) or the employer expended considerable sums in your recruitment process, you may find yourself with  more than a burned bridge; you may find yourself subject to a monetary demand or even a potential lawsuit.  The likelihood of success on the merits of such a claim would vary depending on the jurisdiction.  However, if an employer were "burned enough" and vindictive enough, you may be forced to contend with a lawsuit, even if for nuisance value, which may be costly and burdensome. 

Best case - let the employer down easy and professional and attempt to salvage the relationship!  Good luck!
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