Texas is an at-will employment state. This means that, unless you have an employment contract that says otherwise, your employer can fire you at any time and for any reason, or even for no reason at all, as long as the employer’s decision to fire you was not motivated by discrimination or retaliation. Therefore, if you have an employment contract, you are in a better position than many workers in the state of Texas. Of course, if you have a contract, it means that you can face additional penalties if you leave your job before the end of your employment contract or if you do not do all the things that the contract requires. Any employee who has an employment contract has the right to file a breach of contract lawsuit against an employer that does not fulfill its contractual obligations, but if you have an employment contract and the employment relationship ends on bad terms, you are also vulnerable to your employer suing you for breach of contract. If your employer is accusing you of failure to perform your contractual obligations, or if your employer has failed to do what the employment contract requires, contact the Houston breach of contract lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP.
Introduction to Employment Contracts
While Texas law does not require employers to sign an employment contract with every worker they hire, most managerial positions in corporate jobs involve employment contracts. Companies have great flexibility in setting the terms of the employment contract, as long as the employer offers the employee at least the minimum amount of money and health insurance benefits that the law requires. These are some issues that the employment contract addresses:
- When the period of employment begins and ends
- The amount of pay the employee will receive
- Benefits, including health insurance, paid sick leave or vacation time, and relocation expenses
- Use of employer-provided housing and vehicles, if applicable
- Procedures for renewing the contract, if it is renewable
- The employer’s work duties
- Dispute resolution procedures
- Procedures for early termination of the contract
Some employment contracts also contain force majeure clauses. These provisions state that if one party is unable to perform its obligations because of a force majeure event, also called an act of God, this does not constitute a breach of contract. Examples of force majeure events include wars and natural disasters.
How to Pursue a Breach of Contract Lawsuit
Breach of contract occurs when one of the parties to the contract does not fulfill its contractual obligations, and the other party suffers financial losses as a result. If you suffer financial losses because of your employer’s breach of contract, you have the right to seek compensation through a breach of contract lawsuit. To win your breach of contract lawsuit, you must provide strong evidence in support of the following claims:
- You and your employer signed a legally enforceable contract
- Your employer failed to fulfill one or more of the conditions indicated in the contract
- You performed your contractual obligations, except where the employer’s breach of contract made it impossible to perform some of your duties
- You suffered financial losses as a result of the employer’s breach of contract
If you are thinking of filing a breach of contract lawsuit, it is a good idea to consult a lawyer as soon as it becomes obvious that the problems are serious. Your Houston breach of contract lawyer can help you avoid mistakes that could make it more difficult to win your case or reduce the amount of money that the court can award you.
Including Dispute Resolution Clauses in Your Employment Contract
You are wise to read your employment contract carefully before you sign it, but no matter how diligent you are, it is easy to concentrate on the parts of your employment contract related to your job duties and the money you get for performing them. The dispute resolution clauses are just as important, though. For example, what does the contract say that you should do if you become aware of circumstances that will make it impossible for you to perform the duties indicated in the contract? If you do not follow the proper procedures for notifying your employer and attempting to cure the breach, then this will count against you if you decide to file a breach of contract lawsuit.
The later pages of employment contracts often contain provisions about resolving disputes that arise from the contract. For example, your contract might say that the courts of the state of Texas have jurisdiction to rule on disputes between you and your employer. Some contracts say that the parties must resolve their disputes through arbitration instead of filing lawsuits in court. During arbitration, both parties meet with an arbitrator and reach an agreement on the resolution of their dispute; once they sign this agreement, it is legally binding. If you decide, after you sign the arbitration agreement, that it is unfair, you have the right to go to court and ask the judge to set aside the contract, but you have an uphill battle in convincing a judge to do this.
On the surface, it sounds like arbitration would be less stressful than a lawsuit, since it is more like mediation, and no one wins or loses. In practice, arbitration tends to favor parties with more institutional resources. In arbitration proceedings between a large corporation and an employee, the deck is stacked in favor of the corporation. You can and should have a lawyer represent you in arbitration.
Even better, do not sign a contract where arbitration is mandatory in the first place. If you have not yet signed your contract, ask your employer to remove the arbitration clause and ask your employer to give you the right to resolve disputes with your employer through litigation.
Contact HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP, About Breach of Contract in Houston
The Houston employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP, can help you exercise your rights if your employer has failed to fulfill the conditions of your employment contract. Contact the employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP, in Houston, Texas, to set up a consultation.