In most situations, employers do not have to give employees any guarantees or promises about their employment and can fire them for any reason that is not based on discrimination. But if you have an employment contract covering your job and salary, your employer cannot break the contract. If it does, you may need to file a lawsuit against your employer to enforce the contract and collect any money you're owed for damages.
Employment Contracts Can't Violate Laws
You and your employer can include any terms that you want in the employment contract, provided that the terms don't break any laws. For example, if your employment contract guarantees you a $5,000 payment after reaching a certain level of sales, courts will enforce this against your employer without regard to whether the amount is unreasonable or not. However, if the contract requires you to commit a criminal act or other illegal activity in order to get the payment, the contract isn't enforceable.
Employment Contracts May Be Created by Mistake
Many states have "at-will" employment laws that essentially allow employers to hire and fire employees at any time and for almost any reason. However, there are times when an employer may include terms in an employee's offer letter or make oral promises that unintentionally create an employment contract. If your offer letter or your employer guarantees your employment for a minimum period of time or promises certain payments, you may have a legal claim against your employer if you don't receive what was promised.
Employment Contracts May Require You to Pay
When you have an employment contract that requires you to work until a specific date, but you want to end your employment early, you may have to pay liquidated damages. Liquidated damages are penalties that your employer may include in the employment contract to cover its potential damages or losses if you leave early. Sometimes, courts refuse to enforce these penalty clauses because the amount appears to be more than the actual damages your employer will suffer. If you want to quit your job, have a lawyer review your contract to see if there's a way to break the contract without paying any costs..
Employment Contracts Can Limit Your Job Opportunities
Many employment contracts include non-compete clauses. These clauses usually prevent you from taking a position with a competitor after your employment is ended. However, you may be able to challenge these clauses if they bind you for a long period of time or cover a wide geographic area that would require you to relocate in order to find work.
An Employment Lawyer Can Help
The law surrounding employment contracts is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact an employment lawyer.