Contract Employee vs. Employee At-Will
Identifying the type of employment agreement you have is a vital step to understanding what your legal rights are if you are terminated from your employment.
It could be argued that all employees are contract employees, insofar as there was an offer of employment, acceptance of the employment duties and consideration – a promise of work for the promise of payment. In some instances these components can create a legally binding contract. Massachusetts, however, recognizes two distinct categories of employment relationships: (1) “contract employees”, and (2) “at-will” employees.
Those employees who are not “at-will” employees are more than likely “contract employees.” This contract may have been entered into in writing, orally, or be implied by actions of the employer.
In Massachusetts, a written employment contract is generally enforceable according to the terms of the contract. This means that if a contract has specific terms outlining compensation, benefits, or how and why an employee can be terminated, the employer is legally obligated to adhere to the terms of the contract. If the employer does not adhere to these terms and provisions, the employee may be able to seek damages as a result of the breach of the employment contract. This also means however, that an employer may be able to sue the employee for damages as well if the employee is the one who breaches the agreement.
Oral contracts and implied contracts are two other examples of ways that an employee may not be considered an employee “at-will.” Massachusetts case law has held that oral employment contracts which may arise “from various representations and negotiations between the parties” may be enforceable. See, Frederick v. ConAgra, Inc. ,713 F. Supp. 41, 44 (D. Mass. 1989). […]