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Breach of an oral contract may be wrongful termination

It is sometimes the case that after many years of hard work and dedication, an employee in New York can find themselves fired for reasons that are not their fault. If an employee does not have an employment contract, they are considered to be employed "at will." If so, the employer can fire a worker for any reason, so long as it is not an unlawful reason, such as discrimination or retaliation.

However, if an employee has a written contract with their employer, if the employer breaches that contract by firing the employee, that employee may have a claim for wrongful termination. While most employees with a written contract know they have a contract, in other cases, whether an employment contract exists is not always so clear-cut. That is because sometimes an oral employment contract can exist, the violation of which could lead to a wrongful termination claim.

One type of oral employment contract that may exist is if the employer or a supervisor promises that the employee will not be let go except under certain circumstances related to the employee's performance on the job. Another type of oral employment contract that may exist is if the employer or a supervisor made a promise to an employee that the employee will have secure, long-term employment with the employer (such as promising the employee tenure.) A third type of employment contract that may exist is if the employer or a supervisor made an oral agreement as to how long the worker will be employed with the company.

Keep in mind that this post only provides general information and cannot guarantee whether an oral employment exists in any particular case. Moreover, state laws regarding oral employment contracts vary. Therefore, if a person thinks they have been wrongfully terminated in violation of an oral employment contract, they may want to seek legal advice to learn more about their rights.

Source: FindLaw, "Your Rights when Losing or Leaving a Job," accessed Feb. 13, 2017

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