Breach of Contract Lawyers in Minneapolis
Protecting the Contractual Rights of Employees
Contracts are often an important part of an employment relationship. When an employer does not fulfill its end of the bargain, our attorneys are ready to help you hold them accountable for their broken promises.
In many states, including Minnesota, most employment relationships are at will. In at-will employment relationships, employers (and employees) can end the employment at any time for good cause, bad cause, or no cause at all. Sometimes though, employers enter into contracts with employees that give them additional rights and protections. They can be oral or in writing, they can be explicit or implicit, and they can be individual or collective agreements. Our attorneys can help you navigate whether you may have a contract claim.
Some employees enter into written contracts with their employers. When these written contracts provide fixed terms of employment, or when the contracts alter the requirements for termination, the employers may not be able to fire the employees without a good cause. Contracts can likewise contain terms that govern the conditions, privileges, and benefits of employment. For example, these terms might relate to job location; schedule; or the amount, nature, and quality of work. They might relate to performance evaluations or disciplinary procedures, and, of course, they might relate to compensation. In some circumstances, employee handbooks, manuals, or other documents might create a contract between an employer and its employees, but this will depend on, among other things, the language used in the documents.
If you belong to a union, you may be protected by your union’s written contract with your employer. Union contracts, called "collective bargaining agreements,” or “CBAs,” often state that employers cannot fire employees without "just cause." CBAs will typically define the circumstances or violations that can constitute "just cause," which will involve violations of certain company policies or rules. The CBA will also likely define the process by which an employer can determine if "just cause" exists and how an employee can challenge this determination through a grievance process. If you are a union employee and your employer fires you without just cause, you may have a claim for breach of your CBA. Similarly, if your employer is not paying you or treating you in a manner consistent with your union agreement, you may have a claim. Many CBAs have a short time frame for taking action if you believe your rights were violated.
Implied & Verbal Contracts
You and your employer may also make an implied or verbal contract regarding the terms of your employment. These contracts are often difficult to prove, but evidence such as emails, letters, phone calls, or other communications that verify the terms of the contract are helpful to prove a contract exists and its terms. Likewise, an employer’s conduct, policies and practices, and statements might create an implied contract with its employees. The longer and more consistent an employer’s practices and policies are, the more likely they are to create an implied contract. Finally, even when no employment contract exists, equity might give employees rights. For example, if you sacrifice something in reasonable reliance on your employer’s promise, you may be able to hold your employer to the promise.
What is a Breach of Contract?
A breach of contract occurs when one party fails to fulfill its obligations under the terms of a contract without a valid legal excuse. Contracts are legally binding agreements between two or more parties, where each party agrees to perform certain actions or provide certain goods or services in exchange for something of value (consideration).
Examples of potential violations include:
- Your employer promises to give you equity shares in the company if you stay with the company for three years or more and then fails to do so.
- Your employer fires you because of a personality conflict when your employment contract says you cannot be fired without cause.
- Your employer fires you without going through a progressive discipline procedure when your employer previously promised to follow this procedure before firing you.
- Your employer promises to pay you a certain salary or hourly rate and then fails to pay you that salary or at that rate.
- Your employer terminates you without offering a severance package when your employment contract says employees like you are supposed to receive a severance package.
- Your employer pays you a 10% commission on your sales when your employment contract says you are supposed to receive 18%.
What to Do If a Contract Has Been Breached
If you find yourself in a situation where a breach of contract has occurred, taking prompt and strategic action is crucial. Here are the steps you can take:
- Review the Contract: Start by carefully reviewing the terms of the contract to ensure that a breach has indeed occurred. Pay close attention to the specific obligations outlined for each party, deadlines, conditions, and any clauses related to breach and remedies.
- Document the Breach: Gather evidence to document the breach. This may include contracts, emails, letters, invoices, receipts, or any other relevant communications or documents that demonstrate the other party's failure to fulfill their obligations.
- Assess Damages: Determine the extent of the damages you have suffered as a result of the breach. This could include financial losses, additional expenses incurred, lost profits, or any other harm directly caused by the breach.
- Communicate with the Other Party: Depending on the nature of the breach and the terms of the contract, you may choose to communicate directly with the other party. Clearly outline the breach, specify how it has affected you, and state your expectations for resolving the issue. This communication can be in writing (such as a formal letter or email) and should be kept professional and factual.
- Consider Alternative Dispute Resolution: Before pursuing litigation, consider alternative dispute resolution methods such as negotiation, mediation, or arbitration. These methods can often be faster, less costly, and more amicable ways to resolve contract disputes.
- Send a Formal Demand Letter: If informal communication does not lead to a resolution, consider sending a formal demand letter outlining the breach, the requested remedy, and a deadline for compliance. This letter should be drafted carefully and may be sent by certified mail to ensure proof of delivery.
- Consult with Legal Counsel: If the breach cannot be resolved through negotiation or alternative dispute resolution methods, consider seeking legal advice from a qualified attorney who specializes in contract law. They can provide guidance on your rights, options, and the best course of action to take.
- File a Lawsuit: As a last resort, if all attempts to resolve the breach fail, you may choose to file a lawsuit against the breaching party. Your attorney can assist you with preparing and filing the necessary legal documents, representing you in court, and advocating for your interests during the litigation process.
- Attend Court Proceedings: If the case goes to court, attend all scheduled court proceedings and hearings as required. Be prepared to present evidence, testify, and argue your case before the judge or jury.
- Enforce Judgment: If the court rules in your favor and issues a judgment against the breaching party, take steps to enforce the judgment and collect any awarded damages or remedies.
Remember that contract law can be complex, and the specific steps to take will depend on the circumstances of your case, the terms of the contract, and the applicable laws in your jurisdiction. Seeking guidance from a legal professional early in the process can help ensure that your rights are protected and that you pursue the most effective course of action.
At Nichols Kaster, PLLP, we understand the complexities involved in navigating breach of contract disputes, and we are here to provide expert legal guidance and representation. Our experienced team of attorneys can assess the details of your situation, thoroughly review the terms of the contract in question, and determine the best course of action to protect your rights and interests. From negotiating with the opposing party to pursuing litigation in court if necessary, we will advocate tirelessly on your behalf to seek a favorable resolution. With our extensive knowledge of contract law and dedication to client satisfaction, you can trust us to provide effective legal counsel and support from start to finish.
Call (877) 344-4628 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.
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