What Is Breach of Implied Contract?

By Louie Doverspike

An implied contract is a promise made between two or more parties. Upon accepting a job at the end of an interview, the hiring party is likely to shake the new hire's hand. This is an implied contract. The implication is that the new hire will get the job. To breach such an implied contract is a legal complaint, regardless of there being no contract. Your rights may be more expansive than you think.

Defining Breach

A breach is not defined as those promises laid out explicitly in a contract. Instead, a breach can be any violation of law, principal or obligation. It is this expansive legal definition of breach that leaves room for lawsuits involving breaches of implied contracts.

Obligatory Promises

Bringing forth a legal complaint based upon a breach of an implied contract is typically used by an at-will employee who has no employment contract. Gathering evidence for this kind of complaint can be difficult but not impossible. Some forms of obligation that employers promise their employees include positive performance reviews, company handbooks and a manager's oral assertions of confidence. Most often, breaches of implied contract are terminations with no real cause. The types of evidence already listed indicate the implication that your employment will continue. By giving you a positive performance review, the manager is suggesting that your employment will logically extend.

Binding Legal Agreement

"Word contracts" have a broad definition that can allow legal recourse in circumstances where an employer has breached an implied contract. A contract is seen, in the eyes of the law, as an exchange of vows between parties. This means that a contract does not necessarily need to come on paper and be signed by all involved. Even a tacit understanding is a binding legal instrument, as long as the evidence can be found to demonstrate that such an understanding was in place.

Mirror-Image Acceptance

One of the most important parts of defining a contract as a legally binding entity is the presence of a "mirror image" acceptance. This means that the terms, even applied terms, must be agreed upon in an explicit way. This can be a tricky area. A handshake upon job acceptance could easily be considered a mirror image acceptance, but a witness would have to be present in case of later conflict. The main lesson of mirror image acceptance in relation to breach of implied contract is simply getting full-throated acceptance for any major job shift or change. Making the terms explicit can be the necessary step in demonstrating implied contract later.

Nullifying Possibilities

Often at-will employees will sign an employee agreement, rather than a contract. This agreement is typically designed to nullify much of the evidence needed to combat a breach of implied contract. The agreement will state that company materials, such as mission statements, handbooks and policies, do not constitute a contract. This can be a difficult obstacle to overcome for those who wish to prove a breach of implied contract.

About the Author

Based in Seattle, Louie Doverspike has been a professional writer since 2004. His work has appeared in various publications, including "AntiqueWeek" magazine, the "Prague Post" and "Seattle Represent!" Doverspike holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Hamilton College.