What You Need to Know About Breach of Employment Contract in Georgia
In Georgia, employers and employees who sign employment contracts must fulfill their contractual obligations. Here’s everything you need to know about breaching an employment contract in Georgia.
In some situations, Georgia employees can sue employers for breach of contract. A Georgia judge may award an employee compensatory damages if the employee wins a breach of contract lawsuit.
Georgia Employment Contract Basics
Georgia is an “at-will” state, meaning employers and employees can part ways at any time. Georgia allows employers to fire employees for almost any reason or no reason at all. Similarly, employees can quit at any time without giving notice.
In Georgia, there are two main exceptions to the “at-will” rule. The first is if an employer fires an employee for discriminatory reasons. Federal law prohibits Georgia employers from firing employees for several characteristics, including:
- National origin
The second exception to Georgia’s “at-will” doctrine is if an employer and employee sign an employment contract. An employment contract limits the actions of employers and employees, both while an employee is on the payroll and after they leave the job.
Types of Employment Contracts in Georgia
In Georgia, contracts may apply to employers, employees, or both. Here are some common types of employment contracts in Georgia:
Non-compete clauses prevent employees from moving to a similar job in the same field. For example, a real estate agent may sign a non-compete contract with their agency, preventing the agent from working for a different real estate agency in the same city.
Confidentiality Clauses (NDAs)
Non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) or confidentiality agreements prevent employees from revealing sensitive company information. Many NDAs prohibit employees from discussing customer information, business strategies, and future technological advancements.
In Georgia, some employment contracts specify how long an employee will work at a company. An employer who enters this type of agreement cannot fire an employee without just cause.
Cause for Termination
Because Georgia is an “employment-at-will” state, employers and employees decide what they consider cause for termination. As a result, employers can list many causes for termination on an employment agreement. Nevertheless, Georgia prohibits employers from firing employees without cause before the agreed-upon employment period is over.
Commissions and Bonuses
Some Georgia employment contracts also address commissions and bonuses. These agreements may determine how much money employees receive per sale or how much they will make in bonuses.
The contract language may include complicated clauses, making it difficult for employees to realize when their employer breaches the agreement. An experienced lawyer can help a Georgia employee determine if their employer breaches an employment agreement.
Breaching an Employment Contract in Georgia
The two most common ways Georgia employees breach employment contracts are firing an employee without cause and failing to honor a commission agreement.
Termination Without Cause
Some Georgia employment contracts require an employer to have “cause” for firing an employee. In many cases, the contract lists all possible causes for termination, such as unsuccessful performance or employee misconduct.
Even if an employer fires an employee for cause, an employee can argue an employer terminated them improperly. For example, an employer who fires an employee for misconduct may have to provide evidence of the unwanted behavior.
Georgia employers must pay employees all commissions for work they perform before termination. Some employment contracts specify commission amounts.
If an employment agreement doesn’t consider commissions, an employer and employee may have other written or verbal agreements. Either way, an employee can sue an employer who doesn’t fully pay their commissions.
Damages for Breach of an Employment Contract in Georgia
In Georgia, an employee can sue an employer who breaches their employment contract. Employees can sue employers for compensatory damages, which compensate them for any lost money because of the breach.
For termination without cause in Georgia, a contract may specify what amount an employee can recover. If a contract does not set an amount, an employee can potentially recover the money an employer would have paid them if they hadn’t fired them.
If a Georgia employer fails to fulfill their commission contract, an employee may be able to recover any remaining commissions. A commission lawsuit usually focuses on whether an employee made a sale before termination, the value of the commission, and whether the employer paid the commission.