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By November 7, 2013 0 Comments

Ask a Travel Nurse: Is a verbal agreement to an assignment binding?


asian businesswomanAsk a Travel Nurse Question:  

I’m new to traveling and recently consented over the phone to an assignment (verbal only). The company notified the facility of my verbal agreement and sent out the contract to me, but I have not yet signed. Another position came up (with a different company) which is a much better fit all around. I’ve heard verbal agreements are binding and that the travel company can fine you thous and s of dollars if you cancel the agreement. Is this true? Thanks!

Ask a Travel Nurse Answer:  

Unfortunately, your question is one that can only be answered by a lawyer from the state in which your contract is binding. In many states, a verbal agreement is a binding agreement; however, if a travel company would choose to actually litigate would be another matter entirely. A company can always “fine” you, but how would they enforce that fine without legal intervention?

One other question I would have is what does your contract say? I have signed contracts that allow ME to cancel with two week’s notice. However, this is a rarity in the travel world and I have not traveled with this company in a few years and they may have even removed this clause from their contracts. But your contract is the governing document regarding your employment ( and the instrument any court would use should any legal action result), so what language does it include regarding cancellations?

You have two concerns here. The first is obviously the legal concern. The second would be an ethical and professional concern. You DID agree to the contract and others made plans based on your commitment. Perhaps your company secured housing for you, or at the very least spent time corresponding with the facility to secure you a job. The facility may have also turned down other applicants based on your acceptance of the position. If you were to cancel the contract, if the company sought no legal remedy, at the very least, it is unlikely they would work with you again. While this might be of little concern (seeing as there are more than 200 agencies out there and it would probably be easy to find another agency willing to work with you), you do not want to acquire a reputation as someone who does not follow through on their commitments.

Would you wear a scarlet letter for your actions? Probably not. Would you suffer legal consequences? I would guess it would be a possibility, but not necessarily a probability. It really depends on how much work and  money the company put into securing you the position and if the legal cost would justify seeking any sort of reimbursement. I don’t know the state laws under which your contract is governed, but I would guess that if a verbal commitment was binding in that state, then you could have a judgment against you. But again, would the cost of going after that judgment be in the best financial interest of the company?

I’m sorry if that does not answer your question, but hopefully it adds enough to your assessment of the situation to make an informed decision.


About the Author:

Hello everyone. I’m a travel nurse originally from Ohio who graduated in 1993 from Mount Carmel School of Nursing in Columbus. I completed a critical care fellowship at Riverside Methodist Hospital in 1994 and started traveling in that specialty a year later. My first travel assignment was in Maui and since that time I have completed close to 40 different contracts in various states with multiple travel companies. I am the author of Travel Nurse’s Bible (A Guide to Everything on Travel Nursing), in addition to my writings here and in the pages of Travel Nursing publications such as Healthcare Traveler Magazine and American Nurse Today. I am presently on assignment in Phoenix, AZ and travel anywhere from six to eleven months of the year.

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