What is a breach of contract claim and what are the elements?
Breach of contract is a claim under state law that arises when two or more parties enter into an agreement to do or not do something in exchange for something else and one party fails to do what was promised. In the world of employment, the contract may be one between an employer and employee where the employer hires the employee to perform certain work and, in exchange, the employer will pay certain amounts as salary, benefits, bonuses, etc. A breach occurs when the employer or the employee fails to follow the terms set forth in the contract.
The elements for a breach of contract claim, which the party bringing the claim must typically demonstrate, are (i) the existence of a valid contract binding the parties, (ii) his/her own performance under the contract, (iii) the other party’s nonperformance, and (iv) damages.
What other claims might also arise with a breach of contract claim?
When presenting a cause of action for breach of contract, there are sometimes additional claims that fit alongside it to best articulate and protect the interests of that party. For a contract claim, some of the other available claims include but are not limited to: work and labor done and unjust enrichment.
Work and Labor Done
In the State of Alabama, a claim for work and labor done is recognized and actionable. The Supreme Court of Alabama stated that “[i]t is the settled law of this State that where one knowingly accepts services rendered by another, and the benefit and the result thereof, the law implies a promise on the part of the one accepting with knowledge the services rendered by another to pay the reasonable value of such services rendered.” Therefore, even absent a contract, where an individual performs work, which the other knows about and enjoys the benefit of, the recipient must pay the reasonable value of the service.
A claim for unjust enrichment may arise when an employer holds money or some form of benefit back from an employee, which the employee earned and brought to the employer as a result of services rendered. To demonstrate unjust enrichment, a party must typically demonstrate that the defendant knowingly accepted and retained a benefit, which was provided by another who has a reasonable expectation of compensation. However, a key aspect is that such enrichment must be unjust. “Retention of a benefit is unjust if (1) the donor of the benefit . . . acted under a mistake of fact or in misreliance on a right or duty, or (2) the recipient of the benefit . . . engaged in some unconscionable conduct, such as fraud, coercion, or abuse of a confidential relationship.”
If you feel your employment rights under a contract have been violated, or if you have any other questions regarding your employment rights, please contact the experienced Birmingham employment law attorneys at Michel | King. You can contact us either online or by calling us at (205) 319-9724. We are here to serve you.