What can I do if my employer reneged on the amount of promised compensation?

Get Legal Help Today

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

What can I do if my employer reneged on the amount of promised compensation?

I am a musician who was hired to play in a group that performs one-nighters around the country. Though no contract was signed, we were originally told (in person and in writing) that we would be compensated $300-500/show (depending on how far we had to travel) travel expenses (including gas and lodging). When we actually started performing regularly (2 years later), the leader only paid $150/show and refused to compensate for gas. When I spoke up, she denied ever saying she’d pay more or gas. She did, however, raise our pay to $200/show and promised to raise it again a few months later. When that didn’t happen, I spoke up again, and she fired me. Can I sue her, despite not having a formal contract? Do I have a case?

Asked on July 9, 2015 under Employment Labor Law, Illinois

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

Legally, an oral (often called a verbal; that is, a nonwritten) contract is enforceable; also, writings can form a contract if they evidence enough of the terms as to set out what the agreement was, and also evidence that the two sides or parties agreed to those terms, even if the writings do not take the form of a "formal" contract. Between the oral discussions and the writings, you can sue to enforce the terms of your agreement, but may run into problems with any terms not reflected in the writings--those will turn into "he said, she said," and the fact that you accepted lower payments and no gas will tend to suggest to the court that the lower payment was in fact what you agreed to. Inddeed, this will generally be an issue for you: by accepting lower payment rates and not receiving gas compensation (instead of, say, either quitting on the spot, or suing her immediately for the additional money you believe you were owed), an argument can be made that whatever the prior agreement might have been, you accepted a new agreement with different (lower or worse) terms. That is because people can signal their agreement to a contract by their actions as well as by stating their agreement orally or in writing. Therefore, the fact you continued working for her for either $150 or $200 per show may be taken by a court as evidence that you and she in effect entered into a new agreement for that amount, and therefore the terms of your prior discussion(s) are irrelevant. That's not to say that you can't  try suing her, or that you might not win, but you need to understand that the facts you describe work against you and therefore, your chance of success in court might not be very good.

 


IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

Get Legal Help Today

Find the right lawyer for your legal issue.

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption