Breach of Employment Contract FAQs

Jan 11, 2019
By Peter Friedmann

An employment contract exists whenever a person or organization hires someone to do work and the parties enter into a written agreement governing the terms of employment. Verbal contracts can exist but are rare. The contract itself can be a verbal agreement, a brief written description of responsibilities and pay rates, or a lengthy document that the employee and employer sign.

The most important thing to understand is that every employment contract imposes legally enforceable duties and obligations. When either party violates the terms of the contract, it often makes sense to seek advice and representation from a Columbus employment contract lawyer to figure out what happened and how the breach of contract can be remedied.

Here, we answer five of the most frequently asked questions about breach of employment contracts. If you would like to learn more or think you have a case, call The Friedmann Firm at 614.610.9755 or request a confidential appointment by completing this online contact form.

As employment contract attorneys, we usually take cases for employees. Still, we welcome opportunities to assist employers with preparing contracts that protect their interests while treating workers fairly.

What types of contracts exist between employees and employers?

A basic employment contract spells out what a person is hired to do, what and how they will be paid, and sets certain terms such as location, hours, benefits, and length of employment. The employer largely controls the level of detail that goes into an employment contract unless the employee has representation from a union or other body that can engage in collective bargaining. Preferably, the employee receives, reviews, and signs an employment contract before starting a job.

Some employers also ask employees to enter into nondisclosure agreements and non compete agreements. An NDA restricts the types of information a worker can share with anyone other than the employer. An NCA prevents an employee from taking a new job with certain other employers, which are usually direct competitors of the organization that requests the NCA.

Unionized workers and senior executives may also enter into severance agreements with their employers. The terms of such agreements vary from person to person, but they typically cover separation pay, continuation of health benefits, and payouts for unused leave.

What constitutes a breach of an employment contract?

A breach occurs when either the employee or the employer fails to do what the contract specifies. Examples include the following:

  • The employer pays less than agreed or does not pay at all.
  • The employer fails to provide promised equipment and training.
  • The employer reneges on a promised promotion.
  • The employer fails to provide promised benefits.
  • The employee fails to carry out job duties that he or she agreed to perform.
  • The employee discloses information covered by the NDA.

Who can claim that an employment contract has been breached?

Any person or organization that enters into a contract can claim that another party is in breach. The accusation that a breach has occurred must be credible, however. Partnering with an experienced employment contract lawyer in Columbus to interpret contract terms, gather and organize evidence, and set a strategy for enforcing the contract term that has been breached will prevent an unproductive, possibly contentious, exchange of charges and simple denials.

How does someone prove that an employment contract has been breached?

Each case is different. Having a written and signed contract does make it easier to figure out whether an employee or employer breached the contract but pointing to contract language will not suffice. For a dispute over pay, for example, the employee will need canceled checks or bank statements. A detailed accounting of work hours, testimony from co-workers and managers, and memos and emails may be needed as well. Consulting with an employment contract attorney will clarify the types of evidence required and how to go about collecting it.

What legal remedies exist for breach of employment contracts?

An employer who finds that an employee is in breach of his or her employment contract can take disciplinary action such as requiring additional training or assigning stricter supervision. An employer can also terminate an employee for not fulfilling his or her contractual duties. Enforcing an NDA or NCA generally requires going to court to demand that the former employee pay financial penalties. An employee who has a breach of contract claim usually has to file a civil lawsuit to hold the employer to its obligations. Succeeding with such a lawsuit can result in the award of unpaid wages, monetary damages, and rehiring. A court may also order the employer to update its policies and procedures. Sometimes, an employee will qualify to receive punitive damages, which are noncriminal fines imposed to punish unfair treatment.