Betrayal is an effective plot device, perhaps more effective than even the most memorable MacGuffin, but in most circumstances, it does not make a firm foundation for a lawsuit. For example, in divorce court, the fact that your spouse cheated on you does not automatically mean that the court will grant you everything you requested in the divorce petition. Likewise, in business law, if you found out too late that a business partner, employer, or employee was untrustworthy, the mere existence of your grievance does not mean that the sleazy partner is legally obligated to repair the damage caused by the betrayal.
According to the law, talk is cheap, including promises, unless you follow the procedures legally binding, namely by signing a legally valid written contract. If one party fails to fulfill conditions to which they agreed in a written contract, the other party can sue for breach of contract. Breach of contract disputes between employers and their employees or between two businesses that worked together are among the most common causes of litigation. Still, it is sometimes possible to resolve breach of contract disputes without going to court. The Philadelphia breach of contract lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP can help you resolve contract disputes with your employer or recover compensation for financial losses caused by your employer’s failure to fulfill its contractual obligations.
Employment Contracts in Pennsylvania Law
A contract is a legally binding agreement between two parties. If one party to the contract does not do what it promised to do pursuant to the provisions of the contract, the other party has the right to involve the courts in pursuit of enforcement of the contract or other remedies unless the contract stipulates that the parties must use some other dispute resolution procedure other than litigation in court. The law gives individuals and companies the freedom to agree in a contract to almost anything they choose, as long as they are not agreeing to break the law or agreeing to something that goes against the public good. For example, an employment contract cannot stipulate a rate of pay that is less than the legal minimum wage.
An employment contract should include the following elements:
- The names and addresses of the parties signing the contract
- The date the contract was signed
- The period of time covered by the contract
- Whether the contract is renewable and, if it is, how to renew it
- The employee’s position title and job duties
- The employee’s rate of pay
- Non-salary compensation and benefits, such as employer-provided health insurance, paid time off, the employer’s financial contributions to the employee’s continuing education, and use of housing or a vehicle provided by the employer
- Procedures for terminating the contract early
- Dispute resolution guidelines
Not everyone employed in Pennsylvania has an employment contract. Pennsylvania law allows at-will employment, where employment relationships are possible even in the absence of a contract. The vast majority of workers paid an hourly wage, as well as some who receive an annual salary, are employed on an at-will basis. In an at-will employment relationship, either party is free to end the employment relationship at any time and for almost any reason. In such employment relationships, an employee handbook usually outlines the rights and obligations of the employer and the employee, so breach of contract claims, or something very similar to them, may be possible even if you do not have an employment contract.
How Breach of Contract Lawsuits Work
Employees depend on their employers financially, so you can quickly find yourself in a precarious financial position if your employer fails to deliver on one or more of its contractual obligations. For example, you relocate to Philadelphia after signing an employment contract that states that the employer will provide a company-owned apartment for you, and you will not have to pay rent. The contract says that the apartment will be ready by August 1, when your work officially begins. You move to Philadelphia at the end of July, planning to stay in a hotel for just a few days, but the entire month of August comes and goes, and the apartment still is not ready. By November, you are still renting an Airbnb, and a substantial portion of your paycheck is going to housing expenses.
You would be in a much better financial position if you had stayed at your old job and your old apartment in your old city. In other words, your employer has breached your employment contract.
To win a breach of contract lawsuit, you must persuade the court of the following claims:
- A legally valid contract existed between you and your employer
- You fulfilled your contractual obligations except where your employer’s actions made this impossible
- Your employer did not fulfill its contractual obligations
- You suffered financial losses because of your employer’s failure to fulfill its contractual obligations
Resolving Breach of Contract Disputes Without Going to Court
Just because you have grounds to file a breach of contract lawsuit against your employer, this does not mean that a breach of contract lawsuit is the only option or even the best option. The best employment contracts contain dispute resolution provisions about how one party must notify the other of a breach of contract and the time limit within which the breaching party must repair the breach before the contract becomes null and void. By contacting an employment lawyer early on in the process, you may be able to find a way for your employer to repair the breach. If it is not possible to salvage the contractual relationship, you may be able to negotiate a settlement with the employer so that you can avoid going to court. Remember that lawsuits are costly and stressful, and resolving contract disputes is not about winning or losing.
Contact HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP About Breach of Contract Disputes
The Philadelphia employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP can help you recover compensation for your financial losses resulting from your employer’s breach of your employment contract. Contact the employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to set up a consultation.