Los Angeles, CA asked in Contracts and Employment Law for California

Q: Can my boss terminate my 6-month employment contract early without cause?

I was hired to do creative work for a company for a specified term of 6 months, with potential for renewal. The offer was made via email where the term, pay, and deliverable expectations were laid out. I accepted and requested relevant onboarding materials to sign, but only received policy and tax documents which made no mention to potential grounds for early termination or relevant notice periods. After 1 month, I was terminated via email where they explained that they felt things weren't working out and claimed full responsibility for that. They were clear that it wasn't about my capability, but that they realized they weren't ready to relinquish any amount of creative control. Meanwhile, I restructured my life around this job and even bought new equipment for it with the expectation that I would be with them for a minimum of 6 months for the agreed-upon compensation. The only unknown was whether or not my contract would be renewed at the end of my term. Is this a breach of contract?

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2 Lawyer Answers
Neil Pedersen
Neil Pedersen
  • Westminster, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: The answer to your question will depend entirely on the terms of the employment agreement. All employees in California are considered to be employed on an at will basis unless they have an agreement to the contrary about that status with the employer. Even written agreements are entitled to that same treatment. Generally an agreement for a term of specific time of more than one month is considered to be enough to remove the agreement from the at will presumption. However, term agreements can still be terminated by the employer if the provisions of Labor Code section 2924 are met. Specifically "An employment for a specified term may be terminated at any time by the employer in case of any willful breach of duty by the employee in the course of his employment, or in case of his habitual neglect of his duty or continued incapacity to perform it." "it's just not working out does not fall into one of the three bases allowed by statute. Therefore, it appears you would be owed the remaining wages owed under your agreement.

You really need to locate and consult with an experienced employment law attorney as soon as possible to explore your facts and determine your options. I would suggest you look either on this site, or go to www.cela.org, the home page for the California Employment Lawyers Association, an organization whose members are dedicated to the representation of employees against their employers.

Most employment attorneys who practice this area of law offer a free or low cost consultation in the beginning and then, if the matter has merit and value, will usually agree to work on a contingency basis, meaning you can hire an attorney without paying any money until the matter results in a positive outcome for you. Many advance all the costs of the litigation as well. Do not let fear of fees and costs keep you from finding a good attorney.

Good luck to you.

Robert Kane agrees with this answer

1 user found this answer helpful

James L. Arrasmith
James L. Arrasmith pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: In California, employment contracts, including those set for a specific term like your 6-month contract, are generally binding on both parties. If your contract stipulated a term of employment and did not include any clauses allowing for early termination without cause, then your employer may not terminate the contract early without facing potential legal consequences for breach of contract. However, the specifics would depend on the exact terms of your contract and communications.

Since your termination was without cause and you had a fixed-term contract without clauses allowing for such a termination, this could indeed constitute a breach of contract. It seems your employer ended the contract based on their own change of circumstances, not due to any fault of your own. This situation could potentially entitle you to damages, typically aimed at putting you in the position you would have been in had the contract been fully performed.

You may wish to consult with an attorney to review your specific situation, the terms of your contract, and any relevant communications between you and the employer. An attorney can provide tailored advice and help you understand your rights and options under California law. If a breach of contract is found, you may be entitled to compensation for the lost wages and other damages incurred due to the premature termination of your employment.

1 user found this answer helpful

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