Breach of Contract
We advise and represent individuals in all aspects of dealing with employment contracts. We advise clients who are starting new jobs so that they can get favorable contract terms. We counsel clients on the meaning of existing agreements if they are uncertain whether they are allowed to do certain things. And when an employee is terminated or the employment relationship breaks down, we are often able to negotiate severance agreements on favorable terms. Of course, when necessary, we are prepared to go to court to defend our clients’ rights.
By default, an employee in Massachusetts is considered “at will,” that is, either the employer or the employee can end the employment relationship for any reason or no reason (except for illegal discrimination, retaliation, or another reason specifically banned by law). An employment contract usually gives an employee greater rights and gives both parties more certainty about the nature and terms of employment. Contracts can come in many different forms. Some are long documents or forms written in legalese, but a simple letter can be just as valid. Oral promises are sometimes enforceable contracts. And in some circumstances, an employee manual or handbook can be the basis of an enforceable contract if an employer fails to follow its own policies or procedures.
If an employer has not been carrying out its duties under a contract, the employee may have a breach of contract claim. When assessing a contract dispute, we work with our client to gain a thorough understanding of the relationship over time between the employer and employee, which sheds light on each party’s understanding of the meaning of a contract. We examine all relevant documents, in light of the governing law, so that we can give an informed opinion about each party’s responsibilities under the contract. Depending on the situation, we may be able to empower our client to advocate for their rights directly, or we can engage with an employer directly. If the employer refuses to honor its obligations, we are ready to litigate to enforce contracts on behalf of our clients.
Employees are also sometimes accused of violating contracts. This often occurs with respect to confidentiality and non-competition agreements in particular. In these cases, we will examine the allegations made by an employer and analyze the facts to determine whether a contractual provision may have been violated. We will scrutinize the contracts to assess whether the particular provisions are legally valid, and will think creatively to craft and investigate possible defenses. We will attempt to resolve the situation in a favorable manner for our clients.
Every situation is unique, and it is important to seek legal advice if you are concerned about your rights or responsibilities under a contract. Because federal and state laws can limit the scope of contracts, and especially employment contracts, the words on the page of a contract could mean more or less than what they seem to say. An attorney familiar with the laws governing contracts can help explain the practical impact of a contract and what it means for you. If you have questions about a contract, or you believe that your employer has broken or will break a contract with you, we urge you to call us at (617) 742-6020 or fill out our online contact form to speak to an attorney who can assist you.