California law protects employees who have entered into legally binding employment contracts with their employers. An employment contract may provide protections against arbitrary actions, including termination and discipline without a good reason, or provide for compensation to be paid to the employee if the employer terminates the relationship. When a breach of contract causes an employee to lose income or affects other valuable rights, the employment attorneys at Minnis & Smallets work to assure that the employee receives a remedy for the employer’s broken promise.
An employment contract may be in the form of a formal written agreement. A written employment contract may also take the form of an offer letter that specifies the terms and conditions of the employment being offered. If you accepted the offer, an employment contract was probably formed. An employment contract may also include written commission plans or incentive compensation plans. In some cases, promises contained in an employer’s written policies or handbooks may create a contract.
Some employment contracts are verbal, rather than written. When an employer makes promises about your job or your compensation, and you rely on those promises when you accept or continue employment, then a contract may be formed. While it is easier to prove the existence of a written contract, you are entitled to enforce an oral employment contract if you can prove that an oral promise was made and accepted, and as long as the terms agreed to orally do not conflict with a written agreement.
If you are not sure whether you have an employment contract, search all of the papers that are relevant to your job. If you do not know whether those documents or your employer’s oral promises created a contract, ask the employment contract lawyers at Minnis & Smallets whether an enforceable contract exists.
A breach of contract means that a promise made in a contract has been broken. For example, if your employment contract specifies that you will hold an employment position for two years and the position is terminated after one year, your contract has been breached.
Another common example of a breach involves promises that an employee can only be terminated for cause (“just cause”). Those contract provisions mean that a termination cannot be arbitrary. An employer must have a legitimate reason (usually involving misconduct, poor job performance, or some other compelling reason) to terminate an employee who cannot be terminated without “just cause,” according to a contract provision. If the employer cannot prove that it has a just cause for the termination, then the contract has been breached, entitling the employee to recover damages.
The remedy for a breach depends on the facts of the case. In most cases, employees are entitled to recover their financial losses that resulted from the breach. For example, if you were fired in violation of the contract and it takes you a year to find a comparable job, even after a diligent job search, then you may be entitled to recover your lost wages for that year. And if the best replacement job you can find pays you less than the old one, you may also be entitled to recover the difference in wages.
Has your employer failed to honor promises to you? Has it terminated you without good reason, despite having promised not to terminate you without good cause?
Deciding whether an employment contract exists and, if so, whether the contract was breached requires an investigation of the facts and an understanding of California law. The employment lawyers at Minnis & Smallets have the skill, knowledge, and experience to represent employees in breach of contract claims. If you believe your employer failed to honor an employment contract, you can obtain the legal advice you need by calling us at 1-415-551-0885 or by submitting our online contact form.