Employment Contracts

Everyone who takes a job has an employment contract – even if that contract is not in writing. For example, if you take a job for $8.00 an hour, you have just agreed to an $8.00 an hour contract with your employer. Under that contract, your employer now has to pay you $8.00 an hour for every hour you work, until the contract is changed. The Federal Minimum wage is $7.25. As of May 2016, the California the minimum wage is $10.00. On the November ballot, voters in California will have the chance to vote on  a $15.00. an hour. minimum wage.  Other states vary widely on this issue.

Must employment contracts be in writing?

Generally, oral contracts are just as enforceable as written ones. Only contracts for a long period (such as a year or more) must be in writing to be valid. The problem with oral contracts is that they are hard to prove if the other side denies making a contract or disagrees with you regarding its terms. So you should try to get that agreement in writing before you start work. Many employers, however, don’t like to put employment contracts in writing unless they are for employees in high-level positions. If you need help writing or negotiating a contract, contact an employment attorney, that is, a lawyer who specializes in employment law.

Can my employer change the terms of my contract?

If you don’t have a contract for a specific period of time, your employer can probably change the terms of your employment. For example, even if you began work making $8.00 per hour, your employer could later cut your pay to $7.00 per hour – as long as he gives you notice before making the pay cut. Once the employer tells you that he will start paying you $7.00 and you continue to work, you probably have just entered into a new contract with the employer for $7.00 per hour.

Point of Law – When is a contract binding?

The essential elements of any binding contract, employment or otherwise, is that there must be a clear and unambiguous offer, a unconditional acceptance of the offer, and the presence of consideration. Consideration means that both sides of the contract are giving-up  and gaining something from the deal. For example, the employer is paying a wage and is receiving the value of the work performed. The employee is receiving the pay and is obligated to perform the work.

If an employee has a written contract for employment for a specific term of time and for a specific wage, the contract is binding as to the terms of the contract. If there is no formal written contract, the employment is called an “employment-at-will” and is not binding in the same way a formal written employment contract is for a specific term. That is to say, under an “employement at will” state, such as California,  either the employer or employee can terminate the employment arrangement at will and without cause. However, an employer may never terminate an employee for an illegal reason, such as a termination based on race, religion, gender,  etc….

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *