Breach of Contract in Wrongful Termination Lawsuits
By Gregory Thyberg on December 15, 2017
Breach of contract occurs when one party violates the stipulations of a binding agreement with another party. This could involve a failure to fulfill obligations as specified in a contract, or an implied intent to disregard the obligations as stipulated in the contract. Breach of contract applies to both written and oral contracts.
Breach of contract can take many forms when it comes to employer/employee relationships. With regard to firing employees, the most important issue involves the grounds for termination and whether or not the firing was an act of wrongful termination. The the legal team at the Sacramento, CA firm of ThybergLaw would like to go over the basics of these matters.
Defining "Just Cause" for Termination
An employee's contract may stipulate that they cannot be fired without "just cause." This means that an employer can only fire the employee if there is a good reason to do so. For example, an employee may perform poorly at his or her job without any sign of improvement, resulting in termination. The employee may also perform illegal actions while on the job, resulting in termination.
This is different than "at will" employment, which allows an employer to fire an employee for any legal reason, whether it's a good reason or not. Many companies have "at will" policies in place, or have "at will" employment contracts.
An Example of Termination Without Just Cause
Say that an employee has a "just cause" stipulation in their contract with regard to being fired. The employee is good at her job and is well-liked by her co-workers. The head of the company decides to fire this employee in order to hire a business associate and bring him into the company. In this case, the termination of the employee was done without just cause.
Other Examples of Termination in Breach of Contract
There are other kinds of contract stipulations that may be violated as part of an employee's termination, such as a specified duration of employment or a guarantee of employment. In these exampled, employees may have a specified amount of time they will work for the company without being terminated. Terminating an employee in violation of an agreed upon duration of employment may be grounds for legal action.
Complexities of Oral Contracts
Written employment contracts provide specific language with regard to the terms of employment. This makes it easier to determine if an employer did in fact violate the terms of a contract when they fired an employee.
Oral contracts pose a number of challenges, by contrast, simply because it is not in writing and issues of memory and interpretation of an agreement arise. These issues become further complicated if the oral contract differs from the company's written contract, particularly if the company has "at will" policies when it comes to employment.
How an Employment Law Attorney Can Help
Whether dealing with a written or oral contract, it's important to consult with an experienced employment lawyer about your case. An attorney can assess the evidence available and provide you with an honest assessment of your case against a former employer. During the actual lawsuit process, your attorney can give you expert counsel on how to proceed, including whether to settle out of court or go all the way to trial.
Learn More About Your Legal Options
For more information about your legal options following a breach of contract or a questionable termination of employment, contact an experienced workplace attorney. The legal team at ThybergLaw is here to help you in your time of need.