Your employment relationship is more than just a simple exchange of services for a salary – it’s a commitment, often formalized with a contract. The terms of your employment contract safeguard your employment relationship with promises and expectations that both you and your employer agree to uphold. But when these promises are broken, they can cost you thousands of dollars or more, leaving you disappointed and wronged legally.
With a workforce of over 4 million dynamic and diverse people in the city of New York, every individual’s situation is unique. Understanding your rights as an employee in New York City is critical to identifying breaches of contract by your employer, pursuing avenues for legal recourse, and recovering compensation for your losses.
Can I Sue My Employer for a Breach of Contract?
The short answer is yes – you have the right to sue your employer for a breach of contract in New York City. But what does that actually mean?
A contract is a legally binding agreement that can be written, verbal, or even implied. If your employer fails to live up to the terms of your agreement, they may be in breach of contract. This breach may cause you to experience financial or personal losses, called damages, such as lost income, a lack of benefits that were promised to you, or changes to your job responsibilities made without your consent.
However, not all employment disagreements or disappointments qualify as a breach of contract. It’s important to understand the specifics of your contract terms and the type of breach.
New York Law recognizes three different ways that contracts can be breached:
- Minor or Impartial Breach – Your employer drops the ball on some of the terms of your employment, but delivers on the rest. Legally, you’re still responsible for holding up your end of the contract, but you can sue for the damages caused by the minor breach.
- Material or Total Breach – Your employer has broken so many of the contract terms that you’re unable to perform your end of the deal.
- Anticipatory Breach – Your employer informs you ahead of time that they’re going to breach the terms of your contract. You can still take legal action, but you must also take steps yourself to lessen your losses and damages as much as you reasonably can.
An experienced New York employment contract litigation lawyer can help you determine what type of breach you’re facing and provide legal options to protect your best interests.
Examples of Breach of Contract by Employers
While every situation is different, below are common scenarios of employer breach of contract:
- Non-payment or Underpayment – Your employer agrees to pay you a certain salary but underpays you, delays your wage payments, or fails to pay you
- Wrongful Termination – Even though New York is an “at-will” employment state where employers can terminate workers for any reason, your employment contract may include specific limits on how and why you can get laid off. Your employer could be in breach if they ignore terms stipulating the conditions or time period for termination.
- Job Role Modifications Without Consent – Your contract specifies your role but your employer significantly alters your responsibilities without your agreement.
- Change in Work Conditions Without Notice – Your contract guarantees certain working conditions such as remote work options, office location, or work hours, but your employer unilaterally changes these without your consent or proper notice.
- Forced Change in Employment Status – You’re moved from a full-time to a part-time position or made a contractor instead of an employee against the terms of your contract.
- Denial of Contractual Benefits – Your employer fails to deliver on benefits such as health insurance, paid leave, or bonuses that were promised in your contract.
- Failure to Provide Agreed-Upon Promotion or Raise – Your contract includes a clause for a scheduled promotion or salary raise but your employer fails to honor it.
- Failure to Honor Equity or Stock Options– You don’t receive the equity or stock options that were included as part of your compensation in your contract.
- Inadequate Resources – Your contract requires your employer to provide specific tools or resources, such as safety equipment, certain technology or software, or support staff, but your employer fails to deliver on these promises so you’re unable to do your job.
- Ignoring Stipulated Performance Review Procedures – Your contract includes periodic performance reviews to ensure that you have a track to advancement, but your employer fails to conduct these evaluations as agreed.
- Withholding Professional Development Opportunities – Your employer denies you professional development or training even though it’s included in your contract.
- Cancellations of Contractually Agreed Leave – Your employer refuses to honor contractually agreed-upon leave such as sabbatical or parental leave.
Each of these examples involves a situation where an employer fails to live up to specific terms set out in an employment contract. These types of breaches can have a substantial impact on your professional career and personal life, with far-reaching consequences.
Damages and Compensation for Employer Breach of Contract
When you’ve been wronged by an employment contract breach, New York law allows you to file a lawsuit to recover various forms of compensation for your losses. These can include:
- Back pay for any unpaid salary or lost wages still owed to you
- The monetary equivalent of benefits and bonuses you were entitled to receive
- Other out-of-pocket expenses you had to pay as a result of the breach (for example, the cost of childcare because you had to work on days outside your contract terms)
- The emotional distress and mental anguish you suffered because of the breach
If your employer’s actions were particularly offensive – for example, the company made a pattern of breaching employment contracts, management intentionally promised benefits they knew they couldn’t deliver, or the breach also involved harassment, discrimination, or illegal workplace retaliation – then you might also be able to recover punitive damages. These are meant to punish your employer and discourage further improper conduct.
Every case is unique and the compensation you may be entitled to will depend on the specifics of your employment situation. A skilled and experienced New York City employment contract lawyer can help you assess your case and determine the damages you may be entitled to. Remember – a breach of contract is not just a violation of a legal document, it’s also a breach of trust and professional ethics. Contact Mirza Law now for help protecting your rights.