When two parties agree in writing that they will do something, it is a contract, and in most cases, contracts are legally enforceable in court, which means that the court may award you money if the other party to the agreement did not keep their promises. The parties to a contract can be individuals, companies, or even nonprofit organizations or governments. Business partnership agreements, lease agreements, and prenuptial agreements are all different types of contracts. The laws governing breach of contract are the same whether the contract in question is an employment contract or some other type of formal agreement. If you are involved in a dispute with your employer because they have not kept their contractual promises or because it is no longer feasible for you to fulfill your contractual obligations, contact the New York City breach of contract lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP.
New York City Breach of Contract Lawyer
New York is an at-will employment state, which means that it is legal for your employer to hire you without an employment contract. Unless you have a contract that says otherwise, your job is on an at-will basis, which means that you are free to quit at any time and for any reason; you do not even have a legal obligation to give notice before you leave. In an at-will employment relationship, your employer also has the right to fire you at any time and for any reason except discrimination or retaliation for engaging in a protected activity.
The law gives employers and employees great flexibility as far as what they agree to in their employment contracts. Most employment contracts contain provisions about the employee’s job duties, how to deal with confidential information exchanged in the workplace, the employee’s salary, benefits such as health insurance and paid leave, and the duration of the employment relationship. Most employment contracts also outline procedures for renewing, amending, or terminating the contract. If one of the parties does not act in accordance with the promises they made in the contract, this is called breach of contract. Your employment contract should contain provisions about how to acknowledge and repair a breach of the contract, as well as which courts have jurisdiction to rule on disputes arising from the contract. If possible, you should choose to have the courts of New York decide your contract disputes, but employers sometimes try to push employees toward agreeing to mandatory arbitration clauses. Whether your contract indicates arbitration or litigation for resolving contract disputes, you should have the New York City breach of contract lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP represent you in the dispute.
Minor Breach, Total Breach, and Anticipatory Breach in NYC
New York Law recognizes three kinds of breach of contract:
- Minor breach – Your employer fails to fulfill some of its contractual obligations, but it fulfills the others. In the case of a minor breach, you are still responsible for meeting your contractual obligations, but you have the right to sue your employer for damages. (For example, your contract says you never have to work on weekends, but on several occasions, your employer has pressured you to work on Saturdays, which requires you to pay for childcare. You can sue your employer for reimbursement of the expenses you incurred because of the breach of contract.)
- Total breach – The employer has broken so many of the terms of the contract that it is no longer possible for you to perform your obligations. For example, the employer hired you to manage a restaurant that was supposed to open in January, but it is June, and the restaurant still has not opened. You no longer have any obligations to keep as a prerequisite to being eligible to collect damages.
- Anticipatory breach – Your employer tells you in advance that they will no longer be able to meet their contractual obligations. In light of this, you should make reasonable efforts to mitigate your losses, or else the court will decide that you contributed to your own financial losses and will reduce the amount that it orders the court to pay you.
Collecting Damages in a Breach of Contract Lawsuit in New York City
To win a breach of contract lawsuit, you must prove four things:
- You and your employer signed a contract
- Your employer failed to fulfill some or all of its contractual obligations
- You fulfilled your contractual obligations, except where the employer made it impossible to do so
- You suffered financial losses as a result of the breach of contract
New York law requires the non-breaching party to mitigate their losses in relation to the contract. In other words, it is your responsibility to prove that your financial losses are the defendant’s fault and not due to your failure to take action when you noticed a problem.
Possible Defenses to Allegations of Breach of Contract in NYC
If your employer accuses you of breach of contract, these are some defenses you might be able to use:
- One or more of the provisions of the contract was illegal
- One or more of the provisions was unconscionable (for example, if the employer forbid you to communicate with your family while you were away on work-related travel assignments that lasted several months)
- Your employer lacked legal capacity to enter into the contract (for example, if the employer was a minor when they signed the contract, or if they signed while under the influence of alcohol or drugs)
- It was impossible to keep your contractual obligations because of a force majeure event, such as a war or natural disaster
In any contractual dispute, there are two sides to the story. The New York City breach of contract lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP can help you present your case persuasively.
Contact HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP About Breach of Contract in New York City
HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP can help you file a breach of contract claim or defend yourself against allegations of breach of contract. Contact the employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP in New York, New York to set up a consultation.