Contracts are an essential aspect of any business. Contracts govern many different aspects of the day-to-day operation of a company, including employment contracts between employers and employees. When one or more parties who sign a contract do not fulfill their obligations, as stated in the contract, a breach of contract happens. If you are an employee in New Paltz, New York, or the surrounding area and your employer has breached your employment contract, it is essential that you discuss your case with an attorney. You may have the right to pursue damages for back pay, front pay, attorneys fees and costs, and, in some cases, punitive amages.
The Elements of an Employment Contract in New York
Under New York law, not every agreement between employees and employers is considered a contract. The contract must meet New York requirements for a contract to be enforceable. For example, there must be a consideration, and the contract needs to be signed. The terms of the contract should be clear, and the contract cannot be so unfair to one party that it is unconscionable under New York law. Well-written, thorough, and legally valid employment contracts protect employees and employers.
The contract should clearly state, in detail, the employee’s responsibilities and the employer’s responsibility to compensate the employee. There are many different types of employment contracts. Sometimes employers ask employees to sign a contract before they begin working. Employers also ask employees to sign a severance agreement when they quit or are fired.
Types of Employment Contract Matters We Handle
Breeches of employment contracts occur more often than many employees realize. Sometimes employees sign in an employment contract and forget about it, only to realize later that their employer violated the terms of the agreement. There are many ways that an employment contract can be breached, but some types of breaches occur more frequently than others. HKM Employment Attorneys have a proven history of successfully representing employers and employees in a wide range of contract dispute matters, including the following.
What Constitutes a Breach of Contract?
Not all breaches of contract give rise to you a valid legal claim. There are four main types of breach of contract. The first is a minor breach, also called a partial breach of contract. In this type of breach, one side fails to fulfill part of the contract. A material breach, also called a total breach, happens when one party refuses to uphold any of their side of the contract or refuses to fulfill a portion of the contract that effectively renders the entire contract breached. The third type of contract breach is called an anticipatory breach. This type of breach happens when one party realizes that the other party does not intend to fulfill their contract and the deadline will not be met.
Finally, a mental breach happens when one party fails to complete a term in the contract that was essential to it. In an employment contract case, a fundamental breach would be failing to provide an employee with it an agreed-upon reference or an employee violating a confidentiality agreement by telling another person or group about their previous employer’s intellectual property.
Wage and Hour Violations
Many contract disputes involve disagreements over an employee’s pay and benefits. Most employment contracts outline the compensation an employee is entitled to, including their salary, employment benefits, bonuses, and other benefits. When an employer fails to pay an employee the agreed-upon salary or wages regularly, as required by the contract, the employee has a right to pursue a breach of contract claim. Even if an employee still needs to sign an employment contract, the employer must follow federal and state laws regarding wages, overtime, tips, and minimum wage matters.
Contract disputes can also involve non-compete agreements. Some employers require employees to sign non-compete agreements saying they cannot compete against their employer if they leave their job position. Some non-compete agreements are too restrictive, and courts find them unenforceable because the employer makes the terms too broad and the time restriction is too lengthy.
Failure to Remit Severance Pay
Employers may request that employees sign a severance agreement when they leave. In exchange for agreeing not to bring a legal claim against the employer, the employer agrees to pay the employee a lump sum payment or a payment in disbursements. When an employer signs a contract agreeing to pay severance at the end of a worker’s employment, they are in breach of contract if it fails to do so. The employee can pursue a bridge of contract claim to obtain the amount of severance pay they are entitled to under the contract. Other damages may also be available.
Employers cannot fire employees in a way that violates the employee’s employment contract. most employment contracts state that employers can only fire employees “for cause.” If the employer fires the employee and cannot justify doing so, the employee may have a right to a wrongful termination lawsuit. A wrongful termination claim could also be justified if the employer fired the employee for unlawful reasons, such as discrimination, harassment, or retaliation for pursuing a claim against the employer.
Remedies for Breach of Contract
Under New York contract law, there are multiple different remedies the person who has been wronged can pursue in a breach of contract claim. Money damages are the most common type of remedy. The injured party can pursue compensation for all the money they lost because of the breach of contract. When the party who violated the contract engaged in willful and wanton behavior, the court may award additional punitive damages.
The wrong party can also pursue restitution which would restore an employee to the position they were in before the contract was breached. The court can also order specific performance, which requires the party breaching the contract to fulfill the terms of the agreement. This remedy is usually used when monetary damages are not adequate.
Discuss Your Case With a Paltz, New York Employment Attorney
Whether you are an employee who has been the victim of a breach of an employment contract or your employer who would benefit from legal assistance in reviewing your contracts, HKM Employment Attorneys is here to help. We represent clients in New Paltz and the surrounding area in a wide range of contract claims. Contact HKM Employment Attorneys to schedule a free case evaluation.