In order for there to be a breach of an employment contract there has to be an enforceable contract. Enforceable employment contracts are generally written and signed by both parties. Signatures these days can be electronic. There are, however, circumstances where a contract might be enforced if it is signed by one party or not any of the parties. Courts may uphold the existence of a less than fully signed contract if the parties performed under the assumption the contract was signed.
Oral and implied employment contracts are generally not viable legal theories because employers require employees to sign paperwork indicating they are at-will employees who can be fired at any time for any reason, the employee manual is not a contract of employment, and only written contracts signed by the company president and the employee are enforceable contracts against the employer. Moreover, attempts to recover from employers based upon theories of unjust enrichment are equally challenging. None of this is to say we do not want to hear about your unwritten employment agreement whether it is oral, implied, or based upon equity.
The best way to determine if you have a valid contract, or there has been a breach of the contract is for our employee contract lawyer to review the contract. Call 1-877-525-0700 to start the process of determining whether your employment contract was breached.
An outright termination of an employment contract may be a breach. An employment contract may also be breached in another way.
Common breaches of employment contracts include:
A failure to pay the right sum of money due under the contract, including commissions or bonuses
A substantial change in job title or responsibility compared to what the contract states
Institution of a new commission formula that goes back retroactively to deny payment on previously earned commissions
Ending the contract
Not giving the employee in work under the contract
Presuming there is a valid contract, the next question is what is the remedy for a breach of employment contract? This is where it is best to have a qualified employee contract lawyer read your contract. All too many times we have seen contracts for a period of years with a remedy provision requiring the employer merely give reasonable notice of an intent to end the relationship, or 30 days notice. Sometimes these provisions call for a liquidated damage of 30 days of pay, or even less. Only an experienced employment lawyer can advise whether the provision or entire contract is illusory or unduly unfair to the employee to the point the reasonable contract interpretation is against the employer.
Our employee contract lawyer can help evaluate what your damages are in the event of a breach of contract. Common damages include pay under the contract at issue until a new job is found, payment for commissions, bonuses, or stock options. Contracts for employment which are breached before the employment starts may lead to damages for moving costs and losing a prior salary if it was higher.
As stated earlier, it is best to let an employment attorney see the contract at issue. Employment contracts often have many clauses, many of which are conditioned on others. Additionally, courts give considerable deference to the plain meaning of the actual written terms in the contract. When a new client calls on the phone and describes their employment contract it is unlikely their description will be a mirror image of the written language of the contract. Letting an employee lawyer see the actual contract at issue is like letting a doctor read lab results, or interpret an x-ray. It simply has special meeting to a trained professional.
We look forward to hearing about your employee breach of contract issue. Call or email us today!