Portland, OR asked in Employment Law for Oregon

Q: My firm's VP verbally promised 35 employees continued employment, then laid 12 of us off less than 2 weeks later.

The consulting firm recently lost its largest client in the market I work in and gathered the 35 consultants who worked there to go over the cause for the end of the client service agreement. One of the firm's founders and current VP verbally promised that we would not lose our jobs, and less than two weeks later I was terminated along with 11 other employees. Do I have a potential claim for violation of an employment agreement?

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1 Lawyer Answer
Jeremy R. James
Jeremy R. James
  • Portland, OR
  • Licensed in Oregon

A: First of all, I am sorry to hear you lost your job. Although more information is required to answer this question fully, from what you describe, it is unlikely you have a claim for violation of an employment agreement. As you probably have heard, almost all employment is deemed "at will," which means either the employer or the employee may terminate the relationship at any time and for any reason (or for no reason). Employers and employees can enter into written agreements that alter this relationship and impose restrictions on the grounds and procedures for termination. In addition, employer manuals can in some circumstances create ground rules for termination bases and procedures. However, abesnt a written employment agreement or an employer manual altering the "at will" relationship, an employer may terminate an employee at any time and for any reason (subject to restrictions on discriminatory firings/treatment). In rare situations, an employer's oral promise not to terminate an employee except on good cause can be binding on the employer if the terms of the agreement are sufficiently definite. Here, it does not sound like the VP's oral assurance include sufficiently definite terms such that he effectively changed the "at will" relationship. You should consult with a local attorney if you believe there are more facts that would support a wrongful termination claim than the limited facts you have shared here.

Disclaimer: I am not your attorney. Any information shared here is not intended to be legal advice.

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