Employment contract violations can be a difficult subject in court. Some incidents revolve around how the employer presented the contract. Proving that an employer violated the terms of agreement should be fairly straightforward if the contract comes in a detailed written document. If they do something suspicious with your employment length or payment, you can just go back to the contract to prove they are at fault.

However, not all contracts involve just paper and pen. According to the New York City Bar, one of the most common defenses for contract breach cases is that what the employer did wasn’t in a written document. Many employers attempt to lay out most of their contracts orally, which may give them more freedom over what to do with the workers. If this happens to be the case with your job, then you should know the following facts to see if the case against your employer is worth pursuing.

How long does the job last?

A popular argument for determining if the contract breach lawsuit is valid involves the length of the worker’s employment. According to Section 5-701 of New York’s Statute of Frauds, the contract must be in writing if “by its terms is not to be performed within one year.”

This means that an employer cannot enforce a verbal employment contract if the position lasts more than a year. The employer must write out the agreement and include certain details such as if the position has a life insurance policy or not and if the employer will pay compensation for services. If the employer states that the position will last less than a year, then they can enforce a verbal contract.

Many workers get confused on whether a contract without a definitive ending point would qualify. They believe that if they get fired more than a couple of years into their position, then the verbal agreement would not hold weight. However, these “at will” contracts allow the employer to fire the worker at any time. Even if the position lasts for more than a couple years, the employer could have fired the worker less than a year into their job.

Approaching future contracts

Section 5-701 has changed multiple times within the last couple of decades, so both employers and future employees should refresh themselves with the current version of the law before an agreement.

As for now, both should be aware of how the length of the job influences the necessity for a written contract. Workers should remain cautious if they consider accepting a position that lacks certain written details about their jobs. Employers need to think about what effect having verbal contracts would have on the company and if it’s preferable to have everything written regardless of the position length.

If you are having issues when it comes to verbal employment contracts, please contact an experienced New York employment law attorney to see if you are eligible for a potential lawsuit.