Most of California's employees are considered "at will" and do not have an employment contract. This means that they can leave their jobs when they desire and their employers can let them go "at will" without stating a reason for the job termination. Employers cannot terminate an "at-will" employee as a form of discrimination based on protected characteristics such as race, age and gender.
However, there are a number of California employees who have an employment contract with their employer. In such situations, when an employer violates the terms of the contract, they can be held liable for breach of contract. If you suspect or know that your employer has violated the terms of your employment contract, it is important that you seek the counsel of an experienced law firm by contacting a Los Angeles employment attorney right away to understand your legal rights and options.
What Constitutes Breach of Employment Contract?
A breach of employment contract is essentially a failure (on the part of either party) to abide by the terms and conditions of the contract. A material breach is one that affects a key condition of the employment contract. In other words, when an employer breaks a significant promise in a contract, a breach has occurred. Here are some of the common examples and scenarios that constitute a breach of contract:
- Failing to pay compensation or benefits that are stated on the employment contract
- Not reimbursing business-related or job-related expenses incurred by the employee
- Wrongfully Terminating employment without cause, if the contract requires cause for job termination
- Failing to provide resources to employees that are guarantees under the contract such as equipment needed to do the job
Can an Employment Contract Supersede the Law?
The California Labor Code sets forth laws that govern workplaces within the state. However, it must be noted that employment contracts, generally speaking, can supersede the at-will provision. For example, many employment contracts set a time period for the employment relationship. In such cases, employers or employees may not terminate that relationship without cause. They could be in breach of contract if they do so. However, if an employee wishes to end their employment, the employer or a court cannot force them to continue their employment.
Is a Verbal Agreement Binding Under California Law?
An employment contract in California could be written, oral or implied by circumstances. All of them are binding and enforceable. However, it is a fact that oral or implied contracts are much more challenging to prove because the terms have not been written down. An employer could potentially argue in such cases that there was no contract or that the employee is misrepresenting the terms since there is no written contract.
What Are the Damages for Breach of Employment Contract?
If your employer has violated the terms of your employment contract in California, you are entitled to compensatory damages. You can seek compensation from your employer for the monetary damages you have incurred as the result of the breach of contract. For example, if your employer terminated your contract without cause, you may be eligible to receive the wages for the remaining time left in your contract.
If an employee breaches their contract and leaves the job before the contract expires, they may have to pay the employer's cost for hiring their replacement. In addition, employees who have been affected may also be able to seek compensation for damages such as the emotional distress caused by the breach of contract. In some cases, injunctive relief may also be available. This means that the court orders the parties to stop the actions that constitute the breach of contract. For an employee, this could mean that they get their job back. However, a court cannot force an employee to continue working against their will.
What to Do After a Beach of Contract?
If the significant breach of contract occurs, you as an employee may have a number of options. The first step would be to bring the contract violation to your employer's attention and ask that they keep the promise made in the contract. The employee might attempt to negotiate with the employer if they believe the contract was not breached or that a promise made in the contract was not fulfilled for a reason that is legal. In such cases where there is a dispute, you need an experienced Los Angeles employment attorney to take a look at your case and negotiate on your behalf.
If your contract has been violated, you can also pursue legal remedies such as filing a wrongful termination lawsuit against your company seeking compensatory damages or a court order requiring the employer to keep their promise. If the breach also involves California labor laws such as wage and hour laws or antidiscrimination laws, the employee may pursue remedies for those violations instead of or in addition to a breach of employment contract lawsuit.
Our Employment Lawyers Can Help
Understanding breach of contract laws can be challenging. Our experienced Los Angeles employment lawyers are well equipped to help California employees navigate complex laws in this area and assist them to receive fair compensation for the losses they have incurred as a result of the breach of contract. At Kingsley & Kingsley Lawyers, we understand that this can be a time of stress and turmoil for you. We are here to help guide you through what can be a challenging process and help protect your rights every step of the way. Contact us to schedule your complimentary and confidential consultation.