Many companies are including a penalty clause in their employment offer letters, which requires the worker to pay a specified amount if they decide to withdraw from the employment or fail to commence work on the agreed-upon date. This clause aims to strengthen the contractual obligation by determining in advance the amount of compensation for any breach of the obligation.
A recent ruling from the Forlì Tribunal in March 2023 confirmed the validity of a penalty clause in a case where the worker had renounced the employment as an Administrative Director before the agreed-upon date. The worker was ordered to pay an amount equal to the substitute notice indemnity provided in case of dismissal (six months). The Tribunal rejected the worker’s objections, stating that the penalty clause is valid and effective even when a probationary period is included in the employment offer letter. According to the Tribunal, the penalty clause protects the company’s interest in the worker’s employment and compensation for any breach of the commitment to commence work on the agreed-upon date, while the probationary period is implemented at the time of the worker’s commencement of employment, serving a different and specific interest of the parties in assessing the mutual suitability of the contract.
The Tribunal also dismissed the request for a reduction of the penalty, considering the amount of the penalty not excessive in light of the company’s interest in the employment, which was demonstrated by the significant costs incurred during the personnel recruitment and selection process.