Howdy, friends! Historiann opened her mailbag this afternoon and found a question from a tenured, early mid-career humanist. She’d really appreciate your advice and assistance with her situation, which involves a job offer received while on sabbatical:
I’m on sabbatical this year and have been offered another job! My question is about the “repayment” of one’s sabbatical year. I signed something saying that I owed my current employer a year of work after my sabbatical. Some very knowledgeable people have told me that those clauses are rarely enforced or enforceable, but a colleague of mine who used to be employed at another university tells me they routinely sued people who didn’t return after a sabbatical.
So first, I’m wondering what your readers’ experiences are: do they know of faculty members who just left without repayment, or who were forced to return for a year–or was there some compromise or workaround? And second, I’d love advice on how to handle this clause in any possible negotiations with either party. It seems to weaken my bargaining position with both my current employer (they know I have to stay, at least for a year, and might be less willing to better my position) and my prospective employer (they’d be passing up a bird in the hand).
Sorry to vomit that stress all over you. It’s been an anxious several weeks. But I’d really love any thoughts or advice your readers have for me.
Lucky (not Lawsuit) Lucy
Congratulations, Lucy! This is a happy problem to have. I don’t know about how well those agreements we all sign hold up in court–I’ve never known anyone to challenge the legality of these agreements or the wills of their administrators to enforce them. So I’m throwing this one wide open to the readers: what do you think? How would you advise a colleague? What have you heard about people flying the coop, hitting the bricks, or singing “Happy Trails to You” after a sabbatical without returning for that obligatory year? Does it go down on their permanent records?
Why do universities make us sign these agreements, anyway? They typically require six full years of service before we’re permitted to take a sabbatical, implying that sabbaticals are contingent on service provided rather than future service. So why this requirement on the back end? And why, when most of us get only one semester at full pay or a year at half-pay, do they make us sign agreements that require a full year of service upon return? (If they’re only paying for half our sabbaticals, then it strikes me that one semester is all our employers are entitled to, if they’re entitled to anything.)
I’d love to hear from any of you who can shed light on these tricks, and so would Lucy!