What constitutes an employment contract?

Employment contracts may seem like a straightforward thing, but there are certain situations when a contract may be formed without an individual agreement. As a worker in Missouri, you are generally working under at-will employment, which means you can quit or be let go for any reason at any time. Your employment is not guaranteed. When you have a contract, though, it may stipulate specific details about your employment, including when you can and cannot be let go.

According to the American Bar Association, knowing when an employment contract is formed requires looking at a few key points. In general, it needs to be formally issued, which usually means in writing. It must also include a promise that has not been excluded by a disclaimer. For example, if an employer gives you a handbook outlining what are fireable offenses but includes a disclaimer that the handbook is not a contract, then you could not claim it was a contract if you were fired for something not listed as a fireable offense. A contact also need to be enforceable. It has to be something that a court can legally make happen.

Employee handbooks and policies are often used to argue a contract was made between the employee and the employer. If your employee handbook states certain disciplinary actions will be taken before you can be fired and there is no disclaimer, then you could have a wrongful termination situation if you are fired without the proper disciplinary actions being taken. This information is only intended to educate and should not be interpreted as legal advice.

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