What to do if my former employers claim that I broke my employment contract and want me to pay up for training cost and breach of contract?

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What to do if my former employers claim that I broke my employment contract and want me to pay up for training cost and breach of contract?

I signed a contract to work for a healthcare facility for 3 years and left after 7 months. They want me to pay $3000 for training cost and breach of contract. I think they broke the contract when they changed me from hourly, as was originally in the contract, to salaried. Is the contract still binding and am I required to pay the $3000? Also, it is written that a work week was based on 37.5 hours. However they didn’t explain during point of hire that I would work 80 hours every 2 week pay period but that each day I worked they would take off 30 minutes from my pay for lunch.

Asked on July 2, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, New Jersey

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Since the exact terms of a contract govern its application--and therefore when a party is in breach of it--you should bring a copy of the contract with you to an employment law attorney to review. As a general matter, if an employee breaches his/her employment contract, the employer could potentially sue for its costs, losses, or damages, which could possibly include training or on-boarding expeneses. However, if the employer first violated the contract in a material, or significant, way, that breach could absolve the employee from his/her own performance under the contract--that is, could potentially let the employee terminate employment without penalty. From what you write, the issue about the hours does not appear to be a violation, since you are working the specified number of hours (lunch breaks of 1/2 hour or more do not have to be paid). Whether the change from hourly to salary is a breach will depend in large part on what it's effect on you was. To understand your rights, though, as stated, you need an attorney to review the precise language and also the specifics of your situation with you.


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