At their best, employment contracts prevent disputes between employers and employees before those disputes even have a chance to begin, and when disagreements do arise, the contract provides guidelines for resolving them in a manner that is fair to both parties. Some employees are so excited about the offer they have just received for a well-paying job that they sign the contract without reading it carefully. When a problem arises later on, they wish that they had read the fine print before they signed. Contract negotiations and the resolution of disputes arising from employment contracts form a substantial part of what employment lawyers do. The San Francisco employment contracts lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP can help you by reviewing your employment contract before you accept a job offer and can help you resolve disputes with your employer within the framework of your contract.
What is So Special About Employment Contracts?
The reason that employment lawyers do not spend more of their time on matters related to employment contracts is that most workers do not have a contract. California, like most states, is an at-will employment state. This means that unless you sign a contract that says otherwise, both parties are free to terminate the employment relationship at any time, with little or no notice. Employees often give their employers two weeks’ notice before they quit their jobs, but this is just a matter of etiquette; if you are hired on an at-will basis, it is perfectly legal to ghost your employer or to quit abruptly in the middle of your shift. In an at-will employment relationship, the employer also has the right to terminate the employment relationship at any time. If the employee reasonably believes that the employer fired them for discriminatory reasons or in retaliation for engaging in a protected activity, the employee has the right to sue the employer for wrongful termination of employment.
When you have an employment contract, however, you have much more job protection. Your employer has a legal obligation to continue the employment relationship until the end of the contract period listed in the contract and to pay you the amount that the contract indicates. The contract may indicate an amount of severance pay that the employer must provide if the employer terminates the employment relationship early. In an at-will employment relationship, it is perfectly legal for an employer to lay you off just because they can no longer afford to keep you on the payroll, but if you have a contract, then doing this is a violation of the employer’s contractual obligations.
Read the Fine Print Before You Sign an Employment Contract in San Francisco
Most employment contract disputes are not about the Instagrammable provisions of the contract. They are not about the money you get paid, the company car you get to drive, or all the free meals you get to eat. Instead, the parts that will put you in a stronger or weaker position in the event of a disagreement with your employer are the boring parts that, when you first read them, just sound like legal formalities.
For example, what happens if your employer does not meet their contractual obligations, such as if they do not pay you what they promised or do not provide the working conditions that the contract indicates? The contract may indicate steps that you must follow before you can sue your employer for breach of contract; for example, it may specify a deadline by which you must notify your employer of the breach and by which your employer must repair the breach. If you do not follow these procedures, it could count against you in a lawsuit.
Even worse, if your contract has a mandatory arbitration clause, you may not even be able to sue your employer at all. Arbitrators are supposed to be as neutral as judges, but in practice, a big company has a big advantage in arbitration. The most important sentence in your contract is, “The courts of California have jurisdiction to rule on disputes arising from this contract.” To make sure that this and other details of your contract put you in a strong position in the event of a dispute, it is a good idea to have a San Francisco employment contract lawyer review your contract before you sign.
Breach of Employment Contract Disputes in San Francisco
If you wait until things get bad before you contact an employment lawyer about a dispute with your employer, it is probably just because your sense of professionalism has motivated you to try to resolve matters with your employer directly before you get lawyers involved. Eventually, though, you may decide that a breach of contract lawsuit is the best solution or an employment lawyer may advise you of this. In order to prevail in a breach of contract lawsuit, you must prove the following claims:
- You and your employer signed a legally valid contract.
- Your employer failed to fulfill one or more of its contractual obligations.
- You suffered financial losses as a result of your employer’s non-performance of its contractual duties.
Force majeure clauses are provisions that indicate situations where non-performance of contractual obligations does not constitute a breach of contract. Force majeure events include natural disasters, labor strikes, and other major disruptions that are beyond the control of either of the parties. Like all other provisions of a contract, the more specific the force majeure clause is, the better.
Whether or not your employment contract includes force majeure provisions, it is often possible to resolve breach of contract disputes without going to trial. Your San Francisco employment lawyer may be able to help you reach a satisfactory settlement with your employer before a judge has to decide.
Contact HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP About Employment Contracts in San Francisco
The San Francisco employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP can help you sign an airtight employment contract or resolve a dispute arising from an existing contract. Contact the employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP in San Francisco, California, to set up a consultation.