What Constitutes a Breach of Employment Act in Florida?
In the state of Florida, employment is “at-will” unless you have an employment contract with your employer. If you are an “at-will” employee, you may be terminated at any time with or without cause, so long as the reason is not illegal. If, however, you are a contractual employee, the employer-employee relationship is governed by the terms of the employment contract. Failure to adhere to the terms of the employment contract allows either party to sue for damages.
An employment contract is a legally binding agreement between the parties, which defines the essential terms of the employment. Employment contracts are typically in writing; however, an oral employment contract can be enforceable in Florida. Florida law will recognize an employment contract, written or oral, if the following elements are met: (1) The parties manifest a clear intent to be bound by the terms of the contract; (2) The terms are sufficiently definite to be enforced; and (3) The agreement is supported by consideration.
Elements of a Breach of Contract in Florida
A breach of contract means that a party to the contract has failed to abide by the terms of the contract. Examples of common contract breaches in an employment setting include: the employer failing to compensate the employee according to the terms of the contract, wrongfully discharging the employee or the employee failing to perform the duties agreed upon in the contract. Under Florida law, for an employee to be successful in a claim for a breach of an employment contract, the employee must prove the following elements:
- Plaintiff and defendant entered into a contract;
- Plaintiff did all, or substantially all, of the essential things which the contract required him/her/corporation to do or that he/she/corporation was excused from doing those things;
- All conditions required by the contract for defendant’s performance had occurred;
- Defendant failed to do something essential which the contract required him/her/corporation to do, and;
- Plaintiff was harmed by that failure.
See Florida Standard Jury Instructions.
What Damages May I be Entitled to?
When an employee is successful in their claim for a breach of an employment contract against their employer, the judge or jury will most likely award compensatory damages. Compensatory damages give the nonbreaching party the benefit of the contract that was breached. The purpose of compensatory damages is to put the nonbreaching party in the same place as if the contract had been performed. Likewise, if the employee is the breaching party, the employer may be entitled to compensatory damages. A clear understanding of the terms of the employment contract are necessary to analyze any claims rising out of its breach.
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