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ScottyMacEsq
ScottyMacEsq, Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
Satisfied Customers: 16089
Experience:  Licensed Texas General Practice Attorney
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Email intent vs signed employment contract. Just been released

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Email intent vs signed employment contract.
Just been released after a year and 1 day as part of a RIF. Prior to joining i agreed a 6 month pay and benefit severance if i was terminated after a year (3 months if prior to a year).
After agreeing these terms with my boss he asked the companies legal dept to modify the contract to include the agreed terms. I received and signed the revised contract. After being terminated last week and re-reading the agreement the 6mth severance comes into play from 30th June 2013, my start date was on the 25th of June 2012. Does the intent agreed in our emails allow me to obtain the 6months since i was there for more than a year, or do i have to accept the contract i signed and take 3months even though that was no the intent of what was agreed?

ScottyMacEsq :

Thank you for using JustAnswer. I am researching your issue and will respond shortly.

ScottyMacEsq :

Can you tell me if this was merely an oversight by legal, and both parties to the contract were under the assumption that this would be after 1 year?

Customer:

ok

Customer:

It was more likely to be an oversight by me. Rather than say after a year of employment they it will be 6 months they said after 30th June. They may have been thinking my start date was July 1st 2012.

ScottyMacEsq :

Does this contract have an "integration clause"? That is, a clause that says that this written contract is a complete / integrated agreement, etc...?

Customer:

I actually started on 25th of June 2012 since my boss wanted me there asap.

Customer:

no integration clause?

ScottyMacEsq :

That could help. There is a fairly big issue called the "parol evidence rule". As defined in Pennsylvania, the parol evidence rule provides that: Where parties, without fraud or mistake, have deliberately put their engagements in writing, the law declares the writing to be not only the best, XXXXX XXXXX only evidence of their agreement. All preliminary negotiations, conversations and verbal agreements are merged in and superseded by the subsequent written contract, . . . and unless fraud, accident or mistake be averred, the writing constitutes the agreement between the parties, and its terms cannot be added to nor subtracted from by parol evidence. Mellon Bank Corp. v. First Union Real Estate Equity & Mortg. Inv., 951 F.2d 1399, 1405 (3d Cir. 1991) (quoting Gianni v. Russel & Co., 126 A. 791 (Pa. 1924)). Now if you could show that this was a mutual mistake (in that the assumption was that you were working from July 1, rather than June 25, then you could potentially have a claim (in that the intent was for 1 year, not 1 year and 5 days). But if this was a unilateral mistake (a mistake on your part alone) even the emails probably would not save you.

ScottyMacEsq :

Now the fact that there was no integration clause means that it's less likely that the parole evidence rule would come into play, however, it's still most likely what the company would cite if you were to take it to court.

ScottyMacEsq :

Ultimately whether or not this is an "integrated" contract depends on the factors of your specific case, the emails that you can prove and understandings of what the agreement actually was, when it would be activated, etc... That being said, you need to contact an attorney in your area that deals with breach of contract cases. Go to www.lawyers.com or www.legalmatch.com to find an attorney in your area. You should be able to find one that will give you a free initial consultation and better advise you of your rights, any problems with your case, likelihood of success, how courts are treating cases such as yours in your area, and what you should do next.

ScottyMacEsq :

(this is, of course, if they're not paying you the 6 month severance because they're saying that you did not reach the time period indicated in the agreement)

ScottyMacEsq :

You could also (before looking at hiring an attorney) send a demand letter with all of your evidence and allegations, indicating that you will sue. Send a demand letter demanding payment within 30 days, otherwise you will pursue legal action against them , seeking that amount plus any additional damages as allowed by law. Send this letter certified, return receipt requested, as well as a copy sent regular mail. Keep a copy for yourself, as well as the return receipt number so that you can show the court that you made a demand for the unpaid but agreed upon amount.

ScottyMacEsq :

They might just pay the contested portion of the severance to avoid the legal fees that would be incurred as part of a lawsuit.

Customer:

they state they may offer enhanced terms unto 6 months if i comply with the terms of the release. The key word is may!

ScottyMacEsq :

I would certainly not sign until they unequivocally offer it.

Customer:

it sounds that although i have the intent defined in the emails, they issued a contract saying the start date was the 25th june 2012 and the 6 month would come into effect from july 1st 2013.

Customer:

the contract would take precedence over the emails.

ScottyMacEsq :

Yes, it would, but ultimately it might depend upon when the various parts of the contract were amended. That is, it's possible that the contract originally said July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013, but they modified the start date to indicate your actual start date, with the entire intent being that the severance would occur after a year, rather than on that specific date. Unfortunately that requires certain assumptions that would need to be proven if you were to win if you legally challenged this.

ScottyMacEsq :

of course you could still hold out signing a release unless they unequivocally give you the six months.

Customer:

Scotty, thanks for your help, i sounds as though i should try and talk to them and see if they will agree prior to going down a legal course that would be difficult to prove.

ScottyMacEsq :

That's what I would do. I do wish you the best of luck here. Hope that clears things up a bit. If you have any other questions, please let me know. If not, and you have not yet, please rate my answer AND press the "submit" button, if applicable. Please note that I don't get any credit for my answer unless and until you rate it a 3, 4, 5 (good or better). Thank you, XXXXX XXXXX luck to you!

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