Breach of Contract

Labor & Employment Law

Breach of Contract

Has your employer broken a promise or agreement it had with you? Are you owed money because your employer breached an agreement?  Sass Law Firm has assisted numerous employees in their contractual disputes with their employers.  As committed advocates, we work hard to fight for your rights and to make your employer live up to their promises.  We also assist employees who must defend allegations of breach of contract, such as non-competition or non-solicitation agreements.

What is breach of contract?

There are different ways to form a contract between a worker and their employer. These are often call employment agreements or employment contracts.  While most employees will not have any employment agreement or contract with an employer because they are employed at will, certain promises by your employer may create contractual obligations.

An employment agreement can cover many different aspect of the employment relationship:

  • The specific dates or length of employment
  • Salary and/or bonus
  • Benefits, and/or perks, including stock options
  • Limitations on when and why an employee can be terminated (i.e., “cause”)
  • Severance
  • Confidentiality, non-competition and non-solicitation obligations

When one side does not honor that agreement, it is called a “breach” of the contract.

Do I need a written agreement to sue for breach of contract?

Not in every case, but sometimes you must have a written, signed contract to be able to enforce it. Florida law requires that an agreement which is incapable of being performed in one year must be a written document. This is also referred to as the Statute of Frauds.  For example, an employment contract which guarantees your employment for two years, unless terminated for cause, must be in writing to be enforceable.

However, in some cases, a verbal contract can be enforceable in Florida.

Is there a time limit to sue for a breach of contract in Florida?

Yes, and it depends on whether the contract is written or verbal. Depending on the circumstances, you may have as little as two years from the breach to file a lawsuit or as long as five years to sue for a breach of contract.  Which statute of limitations applies can be tricky, so if your employer breached an agreement with you, do not delay seeking legal advice on your case because if you miss your deadline, you may be unable to collect what is owed to you.

How do I win a breach of contract case?

There are several elements you will need to prove in order to win a breach of contract claim:

1.  You have a valid contract.  This includes addressing questions like:

  • Was there an offer?
  • Was the offer accepted?
  • Was consideration (i.e. something of value) provided for the acceptance?
  • Are all material terms included in the contract?
  • Was there a meeting of the minds?

2.   Your employer breached the contract. You will need to show that you fulfilled your obligations under the contract, that all conditions required for your employer to perform their obligations had occurred, and your employer otherwise failed to do something essential which the contract required.  You need to be very sure that you did not breach any terms of the employment contract.

3.  You suffered damages.  The breach by your employer needs to have caused you to suffer some kind of tangible loss.  This would include unpaid wages, including contractual bonuses and commissions, denial of stock purchase, or not receiving promised incentives, like severance or health insurance.

What can I get if I win a breach of contract case?

There are different remedies available to a successful plaintiff in a breach of contract case. Depending on the situation, some are more appropriate than others.

  • Recession: This basically means that your contract is cancelled, and both parties return to the “status quo” (the position they were in before the contract was formed). This makes the most sense when the non-breaching party just wants out of the contract, rather than when you want your employer to honor the agreement and pay you what is owed, if anything.
  • Damages: This is the most common remedy, and essentially is compensation for what you have lost due to the breach. This is usually money.  For example, if your employer failed to pay you the salary required under your compensation agreement, you could ask for the amount owed to you as damages.
    • You may sometimes also win other types of damages, called special or consequential damages—money losses that flow from the breach. However, these are only available in limited situations and not guaranteed.
    • You could also win “nominal” damages. This comes into play if you can prove a breach of contract by your employer, but you suffered no damages.  Under these circumstances you could still be entitled to a judgment by the Court for nominal damages, such as one dollar.
  • No Emotional Damages: The remedies for breach of contract are designed to make you whole as if there was no breach.  For this reason, emotional damages stemming from a breach of an agreement are not recoverable damages in these type of cases.
  • No Punitive Damages:  In a breach of contract claim, punitive damages are also not allowed.
  • Attorneys’ Fees:  Parties in a breach of contract lawsuit must pay their own litigation costs and attorneys’ fees, unless recoverable by federal or state law or if the contract provides otherwise

What happens if I sue for breach of contract?

If you decide to file a breach of contract lawsuit with the Court, you will have very specific duties to fulfill.  This can include a duty to look for replacement work or otherwise minimize your damages caused by the breach.  There are also many defenses that either party can assert to try to get out of the contract or avoid its obligations in the contract.

As you can tell, although a breach of contract claim seems simple on the surface, it can become complicated quite quickly.  If your employer failed to fulfill the terms of your employment contract, we urge you to contact an experienced employment lawyer to discuss your options and fight for your legal rights.  Sass Law Firm routinely advises clients on the enforceability of their agreements with an employer and is committed to accomplishing our clients’ goals.

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