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When Your Employment Contract Is A Lie

Thursday, June 15, 2017

We should all be treated fairly in our work. If you are employed at-will and subject to specific disciplinary measures, your employer should tell you this and stick by their word. After all, you rely on their honesty to decide if you should hire on or leave a company. That's a big, life-altering decision that you have to make with the best information available.

So, what if your employer misleads you? Say the recruitment officer in HR implied you were hired for a certain length of time and you signed up to work at the company, and then found that the implication you relied on was false? What then?

This is fraud, and it comes in 2 flavors. One is when you signed the employment contract, it said that you could only be fired for certain reasons or that you could rely on being employed for a certain amount of time, and then your employer fires you for other reasons or before the specified time is up. Since this is easy to prove, employers try to avoid such written promises.

However, there are times when implied promises constitute fraud. If an employer tells you he or she will keep you on for a set time or has written specific forms of progressive discipline in the employee manual, that can be considered an exception to an at-will contract. (A bonus situation is that the recruitment officer will give such promises verbally and then your written contract will undercut them. Always read your contract and get all promises in writing.) In such cases, a judge would look at evidence such as regularity of promotions, duration of employment, assurances of continued employment, violations of usual employment practice in firing you, and promises made at hiring.

Fraud is always tricky to prove. You will have to bring evidence that your employer made false representations, that people high in the chain of command knew about them, that you relied on the representations and that your reliance led to you being materially injured. Most difficult of all, you have to prove that your employer intended to deceive you. It can be worth the effort though.

If your employer made promises and then broke them, you may have a case against them. Contact us to see what you can do about it.




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