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What to Do When Your Employer Breaches Your Employment Contract

What to Do When Your Employer Breaches Your Employment Contract

When your employer violates your employment contract, it can leave you feeling completely helpless. However, consulting with an employment law attorney can help you understand what your options are. When one party breaches a contract, including an employment contract, the other party is often entitled to compensatory damages in connection with losses caused by that breach.

Do I Have an Employment Contract?

For many employees, their first question is: Do I even have an employment contract in the first place? Not all employers decide to enter into employment contracts with their employees. For example, many hourly employees, as well as lower-level salaried employees, do not have employment contracts unless their employer wants to bind their employees to specific employment terms, such as a confidentiality agreement or non-compete clause.

 Employment contracts typically contain the following:

  • Terms and conditions of employment
  • A description of job responsibilities, compensation, benefits, paid leave, and employee grievance procedures and policies
  • Whether you are an hourly or salaried employee
  • Any other particular conditions or special provisions related to your employment, such as location, schedule, etc.

Note that these agreements can either be verbal or in writing. Yet one question we frequently receive is: What if I only have an employee handbook (signed or unsigned), does this count as a contract? Under some circumstances, an employee handbook can serve as an implied contract, yet, in many of these cases, the employer has also made a point of stating that employment is at-will and can be terminated at any time. This, of course, affects whether or not you, as an employee, can bring a breach of contract claim against your employer if they decide to terminate you.

What Does a Breach Look Like? The Law in Ohio

An employer breaching an employment contract does not only come in the form of terminating the employee in violation of terms mentioned in the contract; that breach can come in the form of violating any terms of that contract, for example, by:

  • Changing the job description or duties
  • Failing to provide or making unauthorized changes to employee benefits promised in that contract
  • Changing the employee’s compensation, as listed in the contract
  • Violating any other specific terms provided by the agreement (for example, if your contract indicates that you can only be fired for “good cause” and that is not the case, or lists that you will receive a specific bonus that you do not end up receiving, that can constitute a breach)

Under Ohio law, verbal contracts are legally binding. However, Ohio is also an “at-will” state, which means that unless there is a collective bargaining or written employment agreement in place, the employer or employee can terminate employment for any (legal) reason. Still, if you have a contract with your employer in place which limits their ability to fire you, it is important to note that you are not an “at-will” employee.


If your employer has breached your employment contract, you are generally owed compensatory damages to “make you whole again,” as if the contract had been honored. So, for example, if your employer terminated you before they were legally allowed to, pursuant to the contract, you will be paid for the remainder of the contract. The same rule applies to other violations that are not termination; for example, if the violation is related to a bonus, you will be paid what you are due in terms of the bonus provided for in your contract, etc.

Contact Our Ohio Employment Contract Attorneys

At Marshall Forman & Schlein, we are prepared to provide legal assistance to employees who have suffered as a result of employment contract violations. Contact us today for a free consultation to find out more about our services.  

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