Legal considerations before job hopping becomes a habit

These days job hopping amongst employees is commonplace. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average employee stays in a particular job for only 4.4 years.  Employees born between the years of 1977 and 1997 will have up to 15 to 20 jobs in their lifetime.  The trends become even more pronounced with Millennial generation workers.  According to the Harvard Business Review, within the last year, 21 percent of Millennial workers left their jobs for other opportunities.

Gone are the times when employees remain with one company for their whole career. Today’s employees willingly change jobs, companies, and even industries, unafraid to try something new when the need or wish arises.  There are many reasons for employees to job hop: disengagement with their current roles, desire for increases in pay or responsibility, learning new skills and competencies, preferences for a different company culture, or oftentimes just general feelings of complacency or malaise.

Although job hopping can often satisfy these types of goals, there are a few legal considerations and pitfalls that employees should be aware of before job hopping becomes a matter of habit professionally.


Non-competition agreements, non-solicitation agreements, or other restrictive covenants may limit an employee’s ability to seamlessly transition jobs. An employee may think that job hopping is as easy as giving his or her employer notice of resignation and hitting the ground running at the new company.  However, many employees, at one time or another sign non-compete agreements or other restrictive covenants in which they agree that if they were to ever leave the employer, they will not perform the same type of work or work for a company in the same industry for a specific period of time.  The enforceability of such agreements is a very fact-intensive inquiry that warrants consultation with an attorney, but many times, employees will transition jobs forgetting or without regard to the fact that they have these agreements in place.  If the current employer discovers that the employee is competing in alleged violation of one of these agreements, it could spell legal trouble for both the employee and that employee’s new employer.

Employees who are thinking about changing jobs and remaining in a similar industry should think about whether they have one of these agreements.  If they do, it might be wise to seek an attorney’s advice.

Benefits Accruals

Accepting a new job at a different company may lead to better prospects but employees should also think about how the transition could set them back in others. Many employers have benefit plans, especially with regard to 401(k), pension, vacation or paid-time off, or short-term or long-term disability that condition eligibility based on how long an employee has worked for the employer.  New employees may not be entitled to such benefits depending on the employer’s policies.  And many 401(k) or long-term incentive plans have vesting schedules, where an employee have to work a number of years in order to get the full contribution amount.  Employees such as Millennial workers who are at the beginnings of their careers may be far from thinking about retirement but there may be times when benefit income may exceed any increases in salary or bonus that might be gained in the short-term from a move.   At the very least, the effect of a job hop or hops on the employee’s benefits potential is a factor worth weighing before making the move.

Legal Protections

New employees may not have the same legal protections as more tenured workers when it comes to certain aspects of the law. For instance, the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), which gives qualified employees up to twelve weeks of unpaid medical leave for a serious health condition, to care for a spouse, parent, or child with a serious health condition, or for the birth or adoption of a child, applies only to those employees who have worked for the employer for at least twelve months. Job hopping could deprive employees of this crucial legal protection.

Employees considering making a switch (or several switches) should consider all of the factors that may adversely affect them, including the legal ones, before taking that leap to the next position.