Never signed a contract

I was laid off from a Pa facility due to downsizing.The corporate office decided to consolidate all operations to one facility in New Hampshire.At the time off lay off, the owner told me that I would receive one week's salary for each year of service. There was no written contract.
Two weeks after termination,I received a non-compete and severance contract in the mail which I did not sign or return. The employer continued to deposit the severance pay into my account. I am now being sued for the severance monies and all of the employer's legal expenses.The employer is saying that he and I agreed to a verbal non-compete.
Five years previous to this the employer had asked me to sign an agreement and I refused to at that time also.Am I liable for this money since there has never been a written contract and the verbal contract that the employer is referring to is totally fictitious?

2 answers  |  asked Jun 2, 2003 09:33 AM [EST]  |  applies to Pennsylvania

Answers (2)


The short answer is NO. You employer cannot force you to enter into an agreement by witholding wages due.
It is not lawful for an employer to withhold any amount from an employees pay not specifically authorized by law or contract. An employer cannot unilaterally deduct from a paycheck unless that employee agrees to allow the employer to do so, in writing, prior to the deduction.

Violation of this law may subject the employer to penalties under the Wage Payment and Collection Law and possibly other laws. If you are suffering from such acts I urge you to contact a lawyer for help. Many of the applicable laws require the employer to pay a successful employees legal fees

I recently handled a case (successfully) that sounds similar to your situation. If your former employer is doing what my client's employer did you have substantial grounds to recover compensation for not only your lost wages but also additional amounts. Please contact me so that we can discuss this further.

Reply Posted By:
David L. Bargeron
Bargeron Law Office
446 Linden Street
Allentown, PA 18102-3485

posted by DAVID L. BARGERON  |  Jun 13, 2003 4:32 PM [EST]
Christopher Ezold
You may not be liable.

It is difficult to answer your question, as there are a number of facts I do not know, especially surrounding the alleged 'verbal' non-competition agreement. For instance, the terms of the contract, how other severed employees were treated, the normal policies regarding severance and your communications with your employer regarding severance are critical missing facts.

However, based on the facts that you set forth, you appear to not be liable for the return of the severance monies. Your employer paid you severance, and then put a post-hoc condition on that severance, to which you never agreed. The company may be able to stop its severance payments to you, but cannot collect on the paid monies. Furthermore, I find it highly unlikely that a court would allow an award of attorneys' fees. Finally, the terms of the non-compete themselves may not be enforceable, regardless of whether you agreed to them or not.

Please remember that this opinion is based on only a small portion of the facts, and may be incorrect. If you wish to discuss this issue further, please feel free to contact me.

Christopher E. Ezold

Nancy O'Mara Ezold, P.C.
401 City Line Avenue,
Suite 904
Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004
(610) 660-5585

posted by Christopher Ezold  |  Jun 2, 2003 11:25 AM [EST]

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