How to Properly Respond to a Breach of Contract - Shegerian Law

In any business, compliance amongst stakeholders ensures smooth operations. In a highly complex environment such as a workplace, it takes more than just showing up to work every day. Maintaining cooperation and ensuring satisfactory performance are needed to keep the company intact. This relationship between collaboration and performance is why employment contracts are necessary.

Contracts ensure fairness between employees and employers, that responsibilities are laid out clearly, and both parties will sustain a mutually beneficial partnership. However, this does not always work out. If an employer does not fulfill their end of the deal, there are consequences to be faced. This guide will teach you how to respond to a breach of contract.

Breach of Contract Defined

Contracts define the scope of work that an employee does and the responsibilities an employer has to fulfill to maintain confidence from their employees. It is a legally binding document that solidifies an agreement between employees and employers. However, there are cases where specific responsibilities are not fulfilled, which constitutes a breach of contract.

There are different types of contract breaches that can occur in a workplace.

1. Minor Breach

This happens when aspects of a contract are received, but some small parts are missed. An example would be an employer’s failure to reimburse an employee’s expenses on the correct date. A more common example would be bringing your car to a mechanic. The mechanic promises that the vehicle is ready for pickup at a specific time the next day (an oral promise), but in fact, you’re only able to get it a week later.

2. Material Breach

This is when you receive something different from what was stated in the agreement. An example would be when an employer fails to pay the proper wages. Another would be you employing a printing company to print and deliver 300 copies of a flyer to an expo, but there were only 200 copies when they arrived.

3. Anticipatory breach

This comes about when a party demonstrates their intention to break the contract, or informs the non-breaching party that they cannot perform their obligations beforehand after they have already entered the agreement. Essentially, this is an instance when the non-breaching party realizes that the other party will fail to perform their part of the contract in the future.

For instance, a service is supposed to be delivered on a monthly basis and the receiver says they won’t be paying for a month but still expects the service, that would be an anticipatory breach of contract. 

4. Actual breach

Actual breaches occur when a signed party refuses to fulfill their part of the agreement on the specified due date. This also happens when there is complete nonperformance of obligations from the breaching party.

An example would be when your employer doesn’t let you use the work break you are entitled to as per the employment contract. This is an actual breach as your employer fails to comply with the set agreement at the time when the contract must be performed.

Common Examples of Contract Breaches

There are several reasons why a breach of contract happens, but the court will ultimately decide whether or not there was any legal reason for the violation. The following are some breach of contract examples that you can use as a basis for a complaint.

1. Wrongful termination

Wrongful termination or dismissal is a breach of contract based on how you were dismissed. For example, the termination occurred with no proper notice, done without cause, or did not undergo the correct procedures. Examples of wrongful terminations include dismissal based on race, gender, health, disability, religion, or ethnic background.

2. Failure to provide agreed benefits and wages

In every contract, there are a set of agreements between the employee and the employer, including wages and benefits. When the employer does not meet the requirements for either of the two, it can be classified as a breach of contract.

3. Sudden changes to your contract’s terms and conditions

A contract is a legal agreement; therefore, any changes done to the contract by the employer should be negotiated or at least made known to the affected employee. Failure to do so could result in a complaint or lawsuit.

4. Withdrawal of an unconditional job offer after candidate’s acceptance

The contract takes effect once a candidate has been accepted and both parties have agreed and signed the document. Therefore, withdrawing the job offer can be a reason for a breach of contract.

5. Refusal to follow procedures for grievances, disciplinary actions, and dismissals

Every employee wants to be heard by the management. If any complaint has been brought up, the employer must look into the matter. Failure to go by the procedures for grievances, disciplinary actions, and dismissals can be a reason for a breach of contract.

What You Should Do If Your Employer Breached Your Contract

A breach of contract will never be acceptable, and it’s your right to fight for what you are owed according to the agreement. Here is a list of steps you can take when your employer fails to hold up their end of the bargain.

1. Air your grievances informally

The first step is to air your grievances not in writing or voice out your opinions informally. This allows you to state your feelings and apprehensions while hoping to be heard by the management. Do this through a discussion.

2. Consult your co-workers

Before doing anything for yourself, try to scope out whether or not you are singled-out or not. Once you’ve figured out what kind of situation you’re in, only then will you be able to write a coherent complaint if needed. 

3. Construct a demand letter

If your complaints or grievances are not heard nor addressed, the next step is to construct a demand letter. Demand letters are formal letters but are not legally binding, so they cannot be used in court.

4. Contact the right people

The best way to ensure protection from contract breaches is to ask for the help of a breach of contract lawyer who can help you settle your grievances. Remember that it’s always best to ask the opinion of professionals who can also speak for you before filing a complaint to relevant authorities.

Understanding Breach of Contract

When a breach of contract case comes before a judge, it is because one or both parties claim that the agreement has indeed been violated. Usually, a judge must answer the following questions:

  1. Was there a contract to begin with?
  2. If yes, what did the contract require from each party?
  3. Was there any modification of the agreement at any point?
  4. Did the alleged breach of contract occur?
  5. If yes, was it material to the contract?
  6. Does the defendant have a legal defense to contract enforcement?
  7. What were the damages caused by the breach?

Some Reminders

As an employee, there would be instances when you would feel unfairly treated; however, not every action from your employer constitutes a breach of contract. For example, your employer may relocate you and not pay you if you refuse to agree. Another is that they can also limit when you take your vacations.

The best course of action is to understand the nature and extent of the breach, the contract’s scope and provisions, and contact professionals who can help. When a breach has resulted in significant financial losses, you may be forced to take action. However, in doing so, you might unearth other issues, such as unlawful and unfair treatment at work.

When experiencing any unfair treatment, including breach of contract, always remember to explore all your options, practically and legally. By doing this, you can make an informed decision as to how best to manage the situation. Furthermore, remember that some complaints don’t automatically end in court. Breaches of contract can be resolved without resulting in any litigation.

A legal counsel can help you negotiate a settlement with your employer or give you legal advice while protecting your rights in the case that a resolution isn’t met.

Get Experts on Your Case

Contracts ensure that both employees and employers come to a mutual agreement on the scope and responsibilities of each party. Breach of contract can result in a problematic and complex dispute that can lead to severed ties, broken relationships, or something worse.

To ensure that you’re being treated fairly, contact an employment attorney from Shegerian Law to take on your case. We’re a trusted name that fights for employee rights. Contact us today so we can help you!

Manuela Varela

Relations Manager

Manuela Varela has been with Shegerian & Associates since August 2022. She is responsible for outreach and marketing on behalf of the firm and manages relationships between firms and referring attorneys. She is also responsible for developing business opportunities and affiliations. Manuela graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a degree in Economics and Political Science.