Employment contracts in Texas are very rare because employers do not want to guarantee employment for a fixed period of time. In Texas, the employer/employee relationship is governed by the “at-will” doctrine. This simply means that the employer and employee are free to terminate the employment relationship at any time, for any reason.
What is an employment contract?
Employment contracts in Texas provide for a specific duration of employment (i.e. for 1 year or 2 years) and outlines specific ways the employer, or the employee, may end the employment relationship. Unlike employment at will, where either party may terminate employment at any time for any reason, employment contracts specify under what circumstances employment ends. More specifically, the employment contract provides ways the employer may terminate the contract immediately, without notice, or with notice.
In order to terminate a San Antonio employment contract immediately, the contract typically provides “good cause” for an employer to end the contract. There are a number of reasons the employer may have “good cause” to terminate the contract and the terms and conditions of “good cause” are defined in the contract. For example, “good cause” may include: failure to perform the job duties and responsibilities of your job; conviction of a crime; using drugs or alcohol on the job; violence in the workplace; acts of moral turpitude; disclosing confidential information; working for a competitor or starting your own business; violating the company’s code of ethics or bylaws; or any other act the company may deem to be inappropriate conduct or conduct that reflects negatively on the company.
An employment contract may also give the employer an option to terminate an employment contract “without cause”, but would typically provide some form of notice. For example, the employment contract may state the employer may terminate the contract for any reason, but would provide a 30 or 60 day notice of such termination. In such a case, the employer may also have the option to pay the departing employee for the notice period and request that the employee no longer return to work. With employment contracts being so challenging to understand all the ins and outs it is important to contact a San Antonio employment contracts attorney if you have any questions.
Employees may also terminate employment contracts with, or without cause. The employment contract may provide circumstances that the employee may terminate the contract for cause by defining “cause” to include, for example, any material reductions in pay; forcing relocation; or significantly reducing the employee’s duties and responsibilities. Employees that terminate employment contracts without cause, or without reason, may do so, but risk losing certain bonuses, vesting in stocks, and benefits.
Employment contracts in San Antonio may also contain other restrictions imposed on employees that employees should be aware of. These include restrictions on post- employment competition [Non-Competition Agreements], and non-solicitation of employees and customers.
Employment contracts in Texas, while rare, are most commonly used with executives and physicians.
Employers may provide a prospective new employee an offer letter. Offer letters are typically not employment contracts. An offer letter will: outline a new employee’s job duties and responsibilities; job title; rate of pay; benefits; start date; bonus structure and other incentives. Offer letters will also include “at-will” language which specifically states that the offer letter should not be construed as an employment contract, or for any length of employment, and that either the employer or employee may terminate the employment relationship at any time, for any reason—at will. This is the critical difference between an offer letter and an employment contract—offer letters contain specific language regarding employment at will, versus an employment contract is for a fixed period of time. Our San Antonio employment contracts attorneys can help you understand the differences and interpret the language of your contract.
If an employment contract has “at-will” termination language, the contract does not employ the employee for any length of time, but creates many legal obligations on the employee and relatively few obligations on the employer.
What happens if the employer violates an Employment Contract
If the employer violates, or breaches, the employment contract, you have legal rights to seek enforcement of the contract. You may be able to seek damages under the contract, including loss of wages, benefits, and other losses associated with the breach of contract. You may also be entitled to recover your attorney’s fees. So contact a San Antonio employment contract attorney today to see how we can help you.
Employment agreements can be complicated, and there are many terms to consider, including how you will be compensated, what your duties and performance expectations will be, what the grounds for termination are, whether there will be severance benefits, and whether any non-competition or non-solicitation obligations will be included.
If you are contemplating accepting new employment, it is highly advisable to consult with a Board Certified Labor and Employment contract attorney in San Antonio to advise you on your legal rights and obligations, and the company’s obligations and responsibilities during contract negotiations. Attorney Jeffrey A. Goldberg can review the proposed contract and advise you as to the consequences of the terms, as well as suggest revisions or additional terms that may be more favorable to you. If the employer breaches the employment contract, The Law Office of Jeffrey A. Goldberg may be able to represent you in pursuing the claims and damages you are entitled to based upon the contract.
Contact The Law Office of Jeffrey A. Goldberg
Our firm can help you analyze the agreement you have with your employer, and what rights you have to enforce its terms. If you have an offer letter, or employment contract, The Law Office of Jeffrey A. Goldberg can represent employees considering new employment as well as those evaluating new offers from their existing employer.