Some people are better at keeping promises than others. Perhaps you have a coworker whose promises are modest but who always delivers the work well in advance of the deadline when she has promised to submit it. On the other hand, you may have a manager who promises you the moon and stars every time you talk to him, but few of the promises he has made since you have been working together have come to fruition, and the ones that have materialized have done so in a scaled-down version compared to what he originally described to you. In other words, when someone you know makes a promise to you in conversation, you base your expectations on your pre-existing knowledge of the person and his or her previous promises. It is easy to imagine how chaotic contract law would be if you tried to sue the aforementioned manager for failing to fulfill one of his lofty promises, and the judge said, “Did you really think he would do what he said? Duh! Everyone knows he’s a big talker!”
The purpose of written contracts is to personality-proof the very human process of making and accepting promises. In employment law, as in other areas of the law, written contracts are legally binding, and if one party does not abide by the terms of the contract, the other party can sue to recover the financial losses they suffered as a result of the breach of contract. The Spokane breach of contract lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP can help you if you are involved in a dispute with your current or former employer over alleged non-performance of contractual duties.
Employment Contracts and Washington Employment Law
All employees in the state of Washington have legal rights, whether or not they have employment contracts. Washington is one of the 49 states where at-will employment is the default option. In an at-will employment relationship, the employee is free to quit at any time, and the employer is free to fire the employee at any time. Despite this, the employee has the right to sue the employer for wage theft, discrimination, employer retaliation, or other violations of the rights of workers. Employees who were hired at will even have the right to sue their former employers for wrongful termination of employment if the employer’s decision to fire the employee was a matter of discrimination or retaliation. At-will employers cannot, however, sue for breach of contract.
Breach of contract claims only apply if a written contract governed the employment relationship. Employment contracts can set the duration of employment, the rate of pay, benefits, and many other conditions, and since employment contracts are legally binding, the parties are obligated to abide by them. If you do not fulfill your contractual obligations, your employer can sue you for breach of contract. Likewise, you can sue your employer for breach of contract if they do not fulfill the responsibilities outlined in the contract. Many employment contracts indicate remedies that the parties must pursue before filing a breach of contract lawsuit. It is a good idea to start working with a Spokane employment lawyer as soon as the problems with your employer begin to ensure that you are not making mistakes that would sabotage your breach of contract claim.
What to Prove in a Breach of Contract Lawsuit
In a civil lawsuit, including breach of contract lawsuits, the plaintiff seeks damages, in other words, monetary compensation, from the defendant, the party that caused the plaintiff to lose money. In a breach of contract lawsuit, you are alleging that, by failing to follow the rules provided in your employment contract, your employer caused your financial losses. Therefore, your goal in a breach of contract lawsuit is to prove the following claims:
- The employment contract that you and your employer signed was legally valid.
- Your employer failed to fulfill one or more of the obligations outlined in the contract.
- You fulfilled all your contractual obligations, including those related to prerequisites for filing a breach of contract lawsuit, except in situations where your employer’s nonperformance of contractual duties made this impossible. For example, the court will not hold it against you for not managing your employer’s Nevada Heights office if your employer never opened an office in Nevada Heights, even if your contract makes reference to this.
- You suffered financial losses as a direct result of your employer’s breach of contract.
As in other types of civil cases, the standard of evidence in breach of contract lawsuits is a preponderance of the evidence. This means that it is more likely than not that your claims are true. This means that persuading a court to award you damages in a breach of contract lawsuit is a lot easier than persuading a jury to convict a defendant in a criminal case.
Non-Compete Clauses in an Employment Contract Might Not Be Enforceable
If your employment contract contains a non-compete clause, your employer may allege that, by starting your new job after leaving your previous employer, you are violating the non-compete provisions of your contract. The courts may decide on a case-by-case basis which non-compete contracts are enforceable. If your employer sues you over a non-compete clause, you have a chance to argue that the non-compete provisions were so restrictive that it would be unconscionable for the court to require you to follow them.
Force Majeure Clauses Might Mean That Non-Performance of Contractual Duties is Not a Breach of Contract
Force majeure clauses can prevent breach of contract lawsuits. These clauses list the force majeure events, also called acts of God, that would make it so that the parties are not liable for not being able to fulfill their contractual obligations. Wars and natural disasters are examples of force majeure events.
Contact HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP, About Breach of Contract
The Spokane employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP, can help you if your employer has not fulfilled the conditions of your employment contract. Contact the employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP in Spokane, Washington, to set up a consultation.
Call 509-260-7168, schedule a call, or fill out this form and we will get back to you ASAP.