I signed an employment contract: Can they fire me?

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An employment contract should have as a minimum the parties to the contract and essential terms of the contract enumerating the parties’ obligations and rights. The employer makes the offer to enter into the contract and most times dictates the essential terms of the contract with room for negotiation sometimes. In order for an employment contract to be valid in Florida, it must contain terms of definite duration, and consideration or promises to perform certain enumerated acts made by both parties. If the employee finds the essential terms of contract acceptable then the employee will accept. An employment contract does not bar an employer from firing an employee. However, if an employer breaches or goes against an essential term of the contract, then the employee may have redress under the law for termination of the contract.

Legal Implications of Signing An Employment Contract In Florida

When you sign an employment contract in Florida and it alters the default “at will” status between employee and employer, the working relationship is now regulated by the terms of the contract. This means that the employer can no longer just fire the employee for any reason, and the employee is not just free to leave for any reason without experiencing consequences. An employment contract is a bilateral agreement, meaning that both parties to it make promises of performance and responsibilities, whereas a unilateral contract is just pay-for-performance and the employer makes no further promises. An employment contract creates rights an otherwise “at-will” employee would not have in Florida. Namely, the employment contract provides the employee with the right to only be terminated for cause, breach of contract, and in good faith. Therefore, an employee can still be fired if they sign an employment contract. However, if an employee signs an employment contract they can only be terminated for cause if the employee engages in an act forbidden by the contract, and it must the termination must be in good faith, meaning that it cannot be motivated by retaliation or some other malicious motive of the employer.

Employer Consequences For Breaching An Employment Contract

In a breach of an employment contract action, the plaintiff or the one bringing the lawsuit has the burden of proving the amount of damages suffered as a consequence of the breach. So the employee has to prove the quantifiable amount they lost due to the wrongful termination. When an employment contract of a specific duration is breached by an employer the measure of damages according to Florida Supreme Court is “wages for the unexpired part of the term, including, of course, any unpaid balance due under the contract at the time of discharge for services already performed.”

Cases Involving Breached Employment Contracts

In the Florida case of ServeAmerica Inc. v. Rolfe, the Florida First District Court of appeals held that “under a declaration alleging that a master has entered into a contract of employment with a servant for an indefinite period of time at a monthly salary, that upon a breach of such contract the servant’s measure of damages is the worth of the bargain upon which the action is based; not the loss of advantages derived from another contract between the servant and a previous employer, which the servant terminated as an incident to entering into the contract alleged to have been broken.” What this means for an employee who leaves the employ of an employer for more gainful employment, is that the employee cannot use what was paid by their previous employer as a measure of what is owed. The employee must prove the salary offered by the new employer, which induced the employee to leave the employ of his previous employer. If you need clarity about your rights and protection of your rights as an employee you should consult with an employment lawyer.


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