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When an employer fails to follow through with contractual promises made to an employee, it can cause the employee to suffer undue hardship. A Los Angeles Breach of Contract Lawyer at Attorneys for Employees (AFE) can help you recover damages when your employer disregards an employment contract.

What qualifies as a Breach of Contract?

When an employee is hired by a company, they may enter into an agreement that clarifies what is expected of the employee and what the employee can expect from the employer. This is called an employment contract and its terms are enforceable by law. When an employer fails to abide by the terms of the employment agreement, a contract violation has occurred. 

Does the contract have to be written to be enforceable?

Although it is certainly easier to prove an infringement of a written contract, many oral and implied contracts are protected and may be enforced as well. In fact, the majority of cases are oral or implied. 

  • Oral Employment Contract: An oral employment contract occurs when the terms of the agreement are stated and agreed upon verbally by all parties concerned. 
  • Implied Employment Contract: An implied employment contract occurs when the agreement is not written or expressed in words but can be implied through the conduct of the parties involved.

In some instances, the conduct of the employer can rise to the level of fraud and entitle the employee to recover punitive damages. For example, an employer may make false representations about health risks, job security, promotions, salary, or bonuses. 

Breach of Contract Statute of Limitations

Employees should be aware that contract claims can be barred if not pursued in a timely manner. Typically, in California, for an oral or implied contract, the statute of limitations is two years from the time it occurs. For a written contract, the statute of limitations is four years from the time the violation occurs.

What can I recover if my employer breached a contract with me?

When you are the victim of a breach of employment agreement, you may be able to recover the following:

  • Wages lost due to the employment contract infringement
  • Potential earnings (such as bonuses) lost due to the employer’s failure to follow through with the terms of the contract
  • Benefits the employee would have been entitled to if the contract’s terms had not been violated

Employers can breach their employees’ contracts in a variety of different ways. For example, some of the most common types include:

  • Nonpayment of Employee Compensation – When an employment contract calls for the payment of salary, bonuses or any other form of employee compensation, the employer must pay in accordance with the terms of the agreement. Nonpayment is a common violation for which employees can (and should) take legal action.
  • Failure to Provide Employee Benefits – The same is true of failure to provide benefits. If your employment contract calls for health insurance, life insurance, retirement matching, paid time off or any other benefits, you are entitled to receive these benefits as and when agreed.
  • Wrongful Demotion, Relocation or Reassignment – A thoroughly negotiated employment contract will clearly specify the employee’s job duties and rights as an employee. Demoting, relocating or reassigning an employee in violation of the terms of the employee’s agreement is another common breach for which employers can (and should) be held accountable.
  • Misappropriation of Intellectual Property Rights – If you generate intellectual property (IP) within the scope of your employment, your employment agreement should specify whether the rights to this IP belong to you or your employer. If they belong to you and your employer uses your IP infringement of your exclusive rights, you can file a claim for misappropriation.
  • Refusal to Negotiate in Good Faith – Many employment contracts will include provisions that require both parties to negotiate in good faith when it comes time for an extension or renewal. If an employer refuses to negotiate in good faith, this refusal can constitute a contractual default. 
  • Wrongful Termination – When you have an employment contract, your employer can only terminate your employment in accordance with the terms of your agreement. Wrongful termination in default of an employment contract may justify a claim for reinstatement, financial compensation or both.
  • Failure to Pay Severance – If an employment contract calls for the payment of severance upon termination and the employer fails to pay severance compensation when due, this can give rise to a contract violation claim as well. Failure to pay severance is another common type of claim that we frequently handle on behalf of employees in Los Angeles.

While some employment contract default will be fairly obvious, it won’t always be easy to tell whether an employer’s action or inaction constitutes a violation of an employee’s contractual rights. Some factual scenarios can be more complicated than others, and ambiguities in contract language can raise questions about the parties’ respective rights and obligations as well.

As a result, if you think you may have a solid claim against your employer (or former employer), it is important that you consult with a lawyer before doing anything that could potentially jeopardize your employment or your ability to pursue a successful claim. Our lawyers have decades of experience successfully representing employees in contract disputes with their employers, and we can use this experience to help you protect your interests. 

What should I do if my employer breached my employment contract?

The first thing you need to do is schedule a consultation with our firm. Our Los Angeles breach of contract lawyers at AFE have spent years representing employees from different industries to recover what they are due. We have the experience and skills you are looking for in a law firm so you can rest assured that your case receives the individualized attention it deserves. We can be contacted by filling out our intake form.