Breach of Contract?

Let me start by saying that I posted once already and was responded to very helpfully, thank you. I think we've reasonably established that I have not signed a non-compete form. So my new question is, the only "contract" that I could POSSIBLY be held to is the employee handbook which I received when I was hired and signed a form saying I had received it. The only thing in there (and I and a lawyer friend have gone through it backwards and forwards) that remotely has anything to do with them suing me for an injunction against "taking their clients and selling trade secrets" which I repeat, I have not done nor had I any intention to do so is a short blurb stating that their client list is confidential information and not to be disclosed to third parties. Ok, got that. Haven't done it. So what I am wondering is, in that same handbook it states that the employer will pay my vacation pay in full on the date of my last paycheck. Which they haven't done. Wouldn't this be considered a breach of their own contract? I mean, I haven't done anything therefore they can't prove that I have, and there is no "evidence" in their entire complaint that shows I have, but I can prove that they haven't paid me what they owe me.

3 answers  |  asked Dec 19, 2007 10:22 AM [EST]  |  applies to Pennsylvania

Answers (3)

Christopher Ezold
The employee handbook is likely NOT a contract; the employer likely owes you earned vacation pay.

Before I respond to your inquiry, I must state that we have not spoken, I have not reviewed the relevant documents and facts, and I do not represent you. Therefore, my discussion below is not a legal opinion, but is informational only. Finally, my discussion applies only to issues to which Pennsylvania or Federal law apply, unless otherwise specified.

That being said, the employee handbook is likely NOT a contract; however, the employer likely owes you earned vacation pay.

Generally, employee handbooks are NOT contracts; they generally acknowledge this fact in their introductory statements. Even though it's not a contract, the employer does owe you for vacation pay that was earned; you can generally rely on the handbook for when such pay is 'earned.' If you earned such pay, and it's due and payable upon your last paycheck, then the employer may not withhold such amounts.

Furthermore, the right of the employer to protect trade secrets do NOT arise from the handbook or any other contract with you, but from Pennsylvania's Uniform Trade Secrets Act. The Act provides that the employer can sue for an injunction and damages for a theft or disclosure of its trade secrets.

Since you have not taken or disclosed trade secrets, and you appear to have earned your vacation pay, the employer appears to owe you such pay. Under the Wage Payment and Collection Law, if you have to go to court, you can demand your vacation pay, a 25% penalty, and your attorneys' fees for pursuing the unpaid wages.

If you would like to discuss this matter further, please feel free to contact me at the below address(es) or number.

/Christopher E. Ezold/
Nancy O'Mara Ezold, P.C.
One Belmont Avenue,
Suite 501
Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004
(610) 660-5585
Cezold@Ezoldlaw.com

posted by Christopher Ezold  |  Dec 19, 2007 12:01 PM [EST]
Harold Goldner
What's good for the goose....

And let me start by saying, you yourself say, "I and a lawyer friend have gone through it backwards and forwards," yet you're back here asking questions. Did the lawyer you work with know anything about employment law?

I guess I can't understand how one would actually hire a lawyer and then post a question here anyway, but I guess that's just me.

Anyway, your question demonstrates why we can't really advise you without seeing the contract ourselves, and you are at the point where you have to either HIRE a lawyer or not.

Be that as it may, allow me to say one thing, if the employee handbook is a contract, you might find YOURSELF bound to a few 'terms' you might not otherwise want to be bound to.

On the other hand, the entitlement to certain benefits, while appearing in the employee hand book, may be absolute without turning the handbook into a 'contract,' per se.

Return to your former lawyer and move forward, or hire someone else to get adequate legal advice.

Harold

posted by Harold Goldner  |  Dec 19, 2007 10:55 AM [EST]
Christopher Ezold
The employee handbook is likely NOT a contract; the employer likely owes you earned vacation pay.

Before I respond to your inquiry, I must state that we have not spoken, I have not reviewed the relevant documents and facts, and I do not represent you. Therefore, my discussion below is not a legal opinion, but is informational only. Finally, my discussion applies only to issues to which Pennsylvania or Federal law apply, unless otherwise specified.

That being said, the employee handbook is likely NOT a contract; however, the employer likely owes you earned vacation pay.

Generally, employee handbooks are NOT contracts; they generally acknowledge this fact in their introductory statements. Even though it's not a contract, the employer does owe you for vacation pay that was earned; you can generally rely on the handbook for when such pay is 'earned.' If you earned such pay, and it's due and payable upon your last paycheck, then the employer may not withhold such amounts.

Furthermore, the right of the employer to protect trade secrets do NOT arise from the handbook or any other contract with you, but from Pennsylvania's Uniform Trade Secrets Act. The Act provides that the employer can sue for an injunction and damages for a theft or disclosure of its trade secrets.

Since you have not taken or disclosed trade secrets, and you appear to have earned your vacation pay, the employer appears to owe you such pay. Under the Wage Payment and Collection Law, if you have to go to court, you can demand your vacation pay, a 25% penalty, and your attorneys' fees for pursuing the unpaid wages.

If you would like to discuss this matter further, please feel free to contact me at the below address(es) or number.

/Christopher E. Ezold/
Nancy O'Mara Ezold, P.C.
One Belmont Avenue,
Suite 501
Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004
(610) 660-5585
Cezold@Ezoldlaw.com

posted by Christopher Ezold  |  Dec 19, 2007 10:51 AM [EST]

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