When an employer offers you an employment contract, it is a cause for celebration. Do not get so carried away by your enthusiasm that you forget to read the fine print. A contract where you are the beneficiary of something can come back to bite you just as much as one that focuses on your obligations. Therefore, it is as important to read your employment contract before you sign it as it is to read a contract to take out a loan or open a credit card account. Employment contracts contain provisions not only about your rights and obligations and those of your employer, but also about what will happen if things go wrong with the contract. If you are about to sign an employment contract for a new job or are involved in a dispute with your employer about an existing contract, contact the New York City employment contract lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP.
Can You Work Without an Employment Contract in New York?
Not all jobs in the state of New York require or include an employment contract. New York is an at-will employment state, as are most states, which means that employers have the right to employ workers on an at-will basis or to offer them an employment contract, as the employer chooses. Your employer might inform you of the at-will nature of your employment during the application process, or it might be stated in the employee handbook. Unless you have signed a contract that says otherwise, you can assume that you are employed on an at-will basis.
In an at-will employment relationship, the employee is free to quit their job at any time; while etiquette dictates that employees should give their employers two weeks’ notice before they quit, the law does not require it. The employer is also free to terminate the employment relationship any time they choose and for almost any reason. Employees who have been hired on an at-will basis have the right to sue their employers for wrongful termination if they have reason to believe that the motive for firing them was discrimination based on a protected characteristic (for example, race, gender, or disability) or in retaliation for engaging in a protected activity, such as filing a workers’ compensation claim or requesting an unpaid family or medical leave pursuant to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
In general, jobs with employment contracts are more stable than at-will employment arrangements. Jobs that involve employment contracts also tend to have better pay and benefits than at-will jobs.
Elements of an Employment Contract in New York City
Every employment contract is unique, and employers have considerable flexibility about the provisions they include in a contract. These are some of the provisions typically included in employment contracts:
- The employee’s job duties
- The dates of employment
- The employee’s rate of pay
- Benefits, such as paid vacation or sick leave, employer-provided health insurance, and transportation expenses, among others
- Procedures for renewing the contract or terminating it
- Non-compete or non-disclosure provisions
- Dispute resolution procedures and instructions for repairing a breach of contract
- Force majeure clauses about extenuating circumstances that would indemnify the parties if they were unable to fulfill their contractual obligations
An employment contract is not enforceable if it requires either party to engage in an illegal activity.
Breach of Contract and New York Employment Law
Breach of contract occurs when a party to a contract does not fulfill the promises they made by signing the agreement. According to New York law, there are three different kinds of breach of contract.
- A minor breach is where one of the parties to the contract fails to meet some of its obligations while continuing to fulfill others. In this case, it is possible for the contractual relationship to continue, and the nonbreaching party is still responsible for fulfilling their obligations.
- In a total breach, the breaching party has broken so many of the terms of the contract that it is no longer possible for the nonbreaching party to continue performing their contractual duties.
- In an anticipatory breach, one party notifies the other that they cannot meet their obligations; given this information, it is the nonbreaching party’s responsibility to mitigate its losses.
No matter what kind of breach is involved in your contractual relationship with your employer, you will be in the strongest possible position legally if you consult a New York City employment contract lawyer as early in the process as possible.
Resolving Disputes Arising from an Employment Contract in NYC
In the case of breach of contract and other disputes regarding the employment relationship, many employment contracts contain provisions about how the parties to the contract must resolve their disagreements. Although the dispute resolution clauses often appear toward the end of the contract, and employees who have just been hired tend to pay less attention to them than to the parts of the contract that deal with job duties, salary, and benefits, the dispute resolution clauses are among the most important parts of the contract.
The ideal dispute resolution clause in an employment contract says something like, “The courts of the state of New York have jurisdiction to rule on disputes arising from this contract.” This means that, in the event of a breach of contract or other dispute in connection to the contract, either party can file a lawsuit in court. Some employment contracts have mandatory arbitration clauses; unfortunately for employees, these clauses give employers an unfair advantage. If your employment contract requires arbitration, you still have the right to have an employment contract lawyer represent you during arbitration or try to get the courts to strike the arbitration provision so you can file a lawsuit.
Contact HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP About Employment Contracts in New York City
The employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP can help you resolve disputes with your employer about any disputes that arise in connection to your employment contract. Contact the employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP in New York, New York to set up a consultation.