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Employment Contract Attorney Boston

Employment Contract Attorney in Boston

Employment Contract Attorney Boston

EMPLOYMENT CONTRACT REVIEW AND NEGOTIATION

When you need employment lawyers to assist with the review and negotiation of an agreement in Massachusetts, Bennett & Belfort, P.C. is the ideal law firm.  Located near Boston, Massachusetts, Bennett & Belfort’s Employment Contract Attorney Boston are a trusted resource for employees who have been presented with an employment agreement, restrictive covenant agreement, and/or separation agreement, or for employers who plan to present some type of employment agreement to an employee.   

 

REVIEWING EMPLOYMENT CONTRACTS

If you have been presented with an employment agreement, Bennett & Belfort, P.C. has a team of attorneys located near Boston, Massachusetts that can discuss your employment, termination, and review your employment contract

 

NEGOTIATION EXPERTISE

In reviewing a contract on behalf of an individual in Massachusetts, an employment attorney at Bennett & Belfort, P.C. will use their years of experience to assess the language, potential pitfalls, and various ways in which the contract may be revised to be more advantageous to the client. 

 

LEGAL COUNSEL

Our lawyers are proficient in counselling Massachusetts employees on potential ramifications if there is an issue resulting from the employment contract. 

 

UNDERSTANDING EMPLOYMENT AGREEMENTS 

For example, most employment agreements in Boston—and across Massachusetts—specifically state that the individual is an at-will employee.  In other words, the company and employee can end the employment relationship at any time and for any reason, so long as the company does not terminate the employee for an unlawful reason. 

 

LEGAL PROTECTION FOR EMPLOYEES

So, if the employer terminates the employee for one of the following reasons it would be considered unlawful in Massachusetts: age discrimination, pregnancy discrimination, race/color discrimination, national origin discrimination, gender discrimination, religious discrimination, discrimination based on sexual orientation, sexual harassment, retaliation, claims, and/or wage claims for violation of the Massachusetts Wage Act.

 

Separation Agreements

The review and negotiation is one of the core practice areas of our Boston employment law firm.  Employees across Massachusetts, including in Boston, have retained Bennett & Belfort, P.C. to review their separation agreement—which often includes a discussion of the employee’s employment contract—at which point the individual can decide whether to accept the offer of pay from the employer, negotiate better terms, or pursue litigation. 

 

Potential Litigation

If Bennett & Belfort, P.C. is retained to negotiate your separation agreement, it may—if you so choose—contact your former employer on your behalf to discuss the offer, discuss potential laws that have been violated, and the pros and cons of what litigation would entail.   

 

Wage Claims and Breach of Contract   

If an employees believes they have a claim for failure to pay wages and/or breach of contract against their employer, there are certain criteria that should be assessed

 

Legal Requirements

Bennett & Belfort lawyers will explain what is required to prove a wage violation against your employer.  The Massachusetts Wage Act, M.G.L. c. 149, §§ 148, 150, requires employers to pay employees all earned wages in full at the time of termination.  The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court—the highest court in Massachusetts—has ruled that “the statute leaves no wiggle room” and it is a strict liability law.  Reuter v. City of Methuen, 489 Mass. 465 (2022).  The purpose of this law is to prevent the unreasonable retention of earned wages by employers.  Weems v. Citigroup, Inc., 453 Mass. 147, 150 (2009).  Employees who prevail under the Wage Act are entitled to mandatory treble damages, reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.  M.G.L. c. 149, § 150.

 

Civil and Criminal Resolution

Massachusetts law sets forth an avenue for possible resolution of wage complaints on both a civil and criminal level.  Depianti v. Jan-Pro Franchising Intern., Inc., 465 Mass. 607, 611-13 (2013), citing M.G.L. c. 149, § 150.  In the civil context, employees who experience violations of various wage laws, including the Wage Act, are directed to file a complaint with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office.  M.G.L. c. 149, § 150.  Suit may commence 90 days after the filing of the complaint, or upon receipt of the Attorney General’s permission.  Id. 

The employee has the burden to show that their employer failed to pay wages due and owing.  In doing so, he/she will show that there was an agreement between the parties, and the employer did not issue wages despite the employee performing the employment services.  The employee will often argue that the employer decided to terminate him/her and not issue payment on time.  489 Mass. at 778 (“if you choose to terminate an employee you must be prepared to pay him or her in full when you do so.”).

The purported reason(s) why the employer terminated the employee has no bearing on whether or not they violated the Wage Act.  Id.; see also Parker v. EnerNOC, Inc., 484 Mass. 128, 136-137 (2020) (Employers are prohibited from escaping liability under the Wage Act by retaliating against employees to avoid paying commissions that would otherwise be due and payable).  The retention of wages is precisely what the Wage Act was enacted to prevent.  See Weems v. Citigroup, Inc., 453 Mass. 147, 150 (2009) (Massachusetts courts recognize that the purpose of the Wage Act is to prevent the unreasonable retention of earned wages by employers).

The Wage Act is a strict liability statute and includes no language as to why employers failed to pay employees wages.  Somers v. Converged Access, Inc., 454 Mass. 582, 591 (2009).  In other words, intent of the employers plays no role.  Id.

 

Breach of Contract Claims

To prevail on a breach of contract claim, the plaintiff must prove that (1) there was an agreement supported by consideration; (2) plaintiff was ready, willing, and able to perform; (3) the defendant (employer) breached the contract; and (4) plaintiff suffered damages from the breach.  Singarella v. Boston, 342 Mass. 385, 387 (1961).  Interpretation of a written contract is ordinarily a question of law.  Allstate Ins. Co. v. Bearce, 412 Mass. 442, 446-447 (1992).

In most cases, the employee will have to show the following: (1) the employer and employee entered into an employment contract; (2) the employee performed per the terms of the employment contract; (3) the employer violated the terms of the employment contract (this can be proven by showing the employer failed to properly pay the wages or violated a non-monetary term of the employment contract); and (4) the employee has suffered damages.  See Protégé Software Services, Inc. v. Colameta, 2012 Mass. Super LEXIS 190 at *25 (“an employer’s unilateral alteration of an employment agreement can constitute a breach of that agreement.”)    

The employer will likely dispute that it violated the contract and, in doing so, will attempt to argue that, perhaps, there was not a legally-binding contract, and/or the employee failed and/or refused to perform pursuant to the terms of the employment contract.  Assuming the employee can prove the first three elements above, they must also show that they have suffered harm.

 

Implied Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing

Additionally, it is important to note that the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has held that the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing extends to all contracts, including at-will employment contracts, in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  Fortune v. National Cash Register Company, 373 Mass. 96 (1977); Uno Restaurants, Inc. v. Boston Kenmore Realty Corp., 441 Mass. 376 (2004).

Therefore, where an at-will employee has suffered an adverse employment action in bad faith, such as where an employer has acted to deprive an employee of an earned benefit due or about to be due, and to benefit financially at the employee’s expense, the employee may recover compensation.  Fortune, 373 Mass. at 104-105; Cataldo v. Zuckerman, 20 Mass. App. Ct. 731 (1985); Chokel v. Genzyme Corp., 449 Mass. 272 (2007) (“even an ‘at-will’ employment contract could not be terminated by the employer at a moment chosen solely to avoid paying money due an employee for work already performed by him” since such termination is made in bad faith and therefore constitutes a violation of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing).  “The purpose of the implied covenant is to ensure that neither party interferes with the ability of the other to enjoy the fruits of the contracts, Anthony’s Pier Four, Inc. v. HBC Assocs., 411 Mass. 451, 471-472 (1991), and that, when performing the obligations of the contracts, the parties must ‘remain faithful to the intended and agreed expectations’ of the contracts.”  Uno Restaurants, Inc., 441 Mass. at 385.  A breach occurs when one party violates the reasonable expectations of the other.  Id.    

An employee will often argue that their employer failed to pay them per the terms of the employment contracts and, despite performing services on behalf of the employer, it chose not to pay the employee wages that the parties had previously agreed upon.  In some cases, when the employer terminates the employee despite knowing that wages were owed, the employee can argue that the employer acted in bad faith by allowing employee to work for the employer only to then deprive him of the fruits of their labor.  Fortune, 373 Mass. at 104-105.

 

Legal Representation

If an employee presented with a separation agreement would like to pursue litigation in Boston, Massachusetts, Bennett & Belfort, P.C. will assess all laws on the employee’s behalf and proceed accordingly

 

Discrimination Claims

If the employee believes that the separation agreement offer from its former employer is insufficient and/or the separation agreement negotiations have not resulted in a suitable separation offer, litigation may ensue on account of wrongful termination.

 

Legal Assistance

Bennett & Belfort attorneys have litigated cases across Massachusetts.  If the employee has a discrimination claim against their employer, the first step is often a filing with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD).  The MCAD has jurisdiction to hear cases of discrimination in Massachusetts, including age discrimination, pregnanccy discrimination, race/color discrimination, national origin discrimination, gender discrimination, religious discrimination, discrimination based on sexual orientation, sexual harassment, and retaliation.

 

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