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Patrick, Esq.
Patrick, Esq., Lawyer
Category: California Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 7649
Experience:  Significant experience in all areas of employment law.
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I am a healthcare engineer currently working as a project manager.

Customer Question

I am a healthcare engineer currently working as a project manager. I was hired by Omega corp as senior project manager on a new Naval hospital in Okinawa. I was informed by Omega that the project would last a minimum of 2 years but probably 3 years. I accepted the position, moved from costa rica with wife and two school age children. I was told the first stage of the project would last until october 2011 and automatically move into the 2 stage which would go until may of 2013. When we arrived in Okinawa, we leased a home for one year, purchased a car, put the children in a private american academy and started a new life in Okinawa. The president/ceo of Omega came to okinawa in september and told me to be prepared to be here for years. On October 29, one day before end of FY2011, the corp of engineers informed Omega that we would not be receiving stage 2 of the project and that Oct 30 was the last day of our contract. The corp of engrs up to that point had told Omega we would receive the 2nd stage of the contract. The president of Omega sent me an email stating I needed to return to US immediately. I informed him that with all the work I had to accomplish, we could not move in one day. I had to get movers, sell my car, stop my lease, pack, get airline tickets etc etc. The pres of Omega said he did not care about my f__king family and he would not pay for our return. He would only pay my salary and accrued leave time. I sent him a spreadsheet with all associated costs to move from Okinawa plus the lease loss, cell phone loss, plane tickets etc. He again told me that he was not responsible no matter what he told me when I came to olinawa. The spreadsheet totalled approx $29,000.00, he agreed to pay me $3900.00. I have spent many thousands of dollars here due to yen exchange rate changing, house rental costs are 3 times what he informed me, etc etc. I want to recove all my costs, sue the son of a b and make sure my family is taken care of. Do you think I can recover my losses and more?
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: California Employment Law
Expert:  PaulmoJD replied 3 years ago.
Did you have a written contract with the company? What were the terms of that contract? Did the contract specify what law applied, Japan or the US?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
I had a contract that was for the first 6 months at which time we would negotiate a new contract for stage 2 of the project. I have multiple emails from the president and his partner stating we were definately going to get stage two and that I should prepare to stay in okinawa for several more years. I have approx 1200 emails and many of them state basically the same thing. Prepare to stay. california law prevails as the firm corp hdqtrs is in san diego.
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 3 years ago.
Hello and thank you for entrusting me to answer your question. California employment law expert here.

I'm going to assume that California law applies, although that may or may not be the case because your employment actually took place in Japan.

Although your contract only guaranteed you employment for 6 months, under California law, you would have a reasonable argument that your employer's actions nevertheless created an implied contract that prohibited them from firing you prior to stage 2.

To determine whether an implied contract exists, California courts consider such factors as: the length of employment, commendations and promotions, job performance evaluations, any assurances of continued employment (a promise of permanent job security, for example), and the employer's employee handbooks and policies. No set criteria exists to determine the existence of an implied contract, and the court will assess the totality of the circumstances each case.

Here, your employer's repeated assurance that the position would last at least two years may constitute an implied modification to your written employment contract. If such were the case, your employer would be liable for all damages that you incurred as a result of breaking the contract. These damages would include your moving expenses.

As I said above, California law may or may not apply, and this determination is complex. One factor that the courts give a lot of weight to, however, is where the work was actually performed. If the work is actually performed outside of the state, I have some doubt as to whether California law would be applicable.

I hope that this information helps you in deciding what to do. Bear in mind that the above does not constitute legal advice. I wish you and your family the best.

If my answer has been helpful to you, please click on the GREEN ACCEPT button directly above. I will not get credit for assisting you or receive payment for my work unless you do this. Your question will not close after you click "accept," and you will still be able to ask follow-up questions if necessary.
 
The only facts I know about your situation are the ones that you tell me, so please try to be specific and bear in mind that, occasionally, miscommunications will occur. I will do everything I can to clarify my answer if I have misunderstood your question. Also bear in mind that the law does not always read how we think it should. I ask that you be understanding if an opinion I have provided is not consistent with what you wanted to hear.
 
Finally, the information that I have provided is not legal advice. I am not acting as your attorney and my answer does not establish an attorney-client relationship between us. I encourage you to consult with a local attorney in regard to legal matters.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
I asked what whether I had grounds for suit action against my previous employer. Not a reasonable chance.
Do I have a good chance. I am still in Okinawa because Omega refuses to send me the funds for my family to return as well as all my furniture. I have all documents that the firm paid to send us out here, and now they refuse to bring us back. I know they were paid in total for the work I did. five months engineering work and 1.2milliion in fees. These dirt bags left me high and dry. What are my chances of mitigating my loses? 1% or 100% or where in between. That is the answer. I know here is a reasonable chance, they changed my contract verbally and by emails I received. So what do you say my chances are?
Expert:  Patrick, Esq. replied 3 years ago.

I can't provide you with a specific percentage of the likelihood of success. There are far, far too many variables, and any estimate I were to give you would be completely meaningless. What I can do is provide you with an accurate statement of the law in California and what your rights are under that law. That is what I have tried to do. I hope that you appreciate these limitations and understand that I am trying to be as helpful as I possibly can under the circumstances.

 

I would advise contacting local attorneys to see if they would be willing to handle this matter on a contingency fee basis. On a contingency fee, they will only be paid if the recover money on your behalf. This means that there is little risk to you in proceeding with a claim, regardless of the likelihood of its success, because you will not be liable for attorney fees if you lose.

 

I certainly appreciate your predicament and frustration in not being able to receive a more concrete answer. I hope that you will also appreciate the time that I have put into answering your questions and that you will click "accept" so that I can be paid for my time. Thanks so much.

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Patrick, Esq.
Patrick, Esq.
2321 Satisfied Customers
Significant experience in all areas of employment law.