Enforcement Archives

“Can my bonus plan be changed due to a supposed mistake, after agreed to in a contract?”

Published on March 7th, 2014 by Alan L Sklover

Question: I recently was promoted within my company and I received a 10% salary increase and my bonus plan was moved from 15% to 45%, as I moved to a sales/marketing job, so I am now under the sales bonus plan. 

After both sides signed the contract, I was informed there was a “mistake” and they can no longer offer the 45% plan, and it is going back to 15%. 

Unfortunately, I overheard my old manager and old HR representative complaining when they became aware of my offer, and said “It just has to be changed,” which makes me think it was not really a “mistake,” but just jealousy or stinginess. What can I do?

Christy
Albany, New York 

Answer: Dear Christy: Your question raises issues related to (a) contracts, (b) supposed “mistakes” in contracts, (c) bonus plans, and (d) how people “correct” alleged “mistakes” in contracts and bonus plans. Here are my thoughts: 

1. Contracts must always be carefully read, with attention paid to each and every word, and each and every punctuation mark. I say it all the time: contracts must be read with extreme care, because just one word or even one punctuation mark might make a big difference. In fact, sometimes what is absent from a contract is even more important than what is present in the contract. Just like an automobile engine, if one “engine part” is the wrong part, or broken, or missing, the entire engine may not work. 

It is possible your contract says “This contract cannot be changed for one year, without your prior written consent to do so.” On the other hand, is it possible that your contract says, “This contract can be changed at any time, by either of the parties.” 

It is also possible your contract says which bonus plan – that is, the 15% one or the 45% one – you are entitled to.  As you can see, what your contract actually says sure would make a big difference in terms of what you can now do to help yourself.  

2. Bonus plans, too, must be carefully read, although compared to contracts, they are a “bird of a different feather.” While employment-related contracts are binding agreements between two parties – the employer and the employee – compensation-related “plans” are different: they are (a) payment arrangements and conditions created by the employer, that (b) are sometimes binding, and sometimes not, depending on their wording, and (c) usually provide that they can be changed at any time, at the discretion of the employer. 

In fact, most bonus, commission, equity or other compensation-related plans often have language that permits the employer to modify them whenever they wish, in any way, and to liberally interpret them in ways they see fit.  

However, there are a few limitations. One limitation is that, even if a compensation plan says, in effect, “This plan can be changed at any time,” new changes cannot be imposed retroactively; it can only be changed prospectively. Said differently, it cannot affect the past, only the future. 

A legal consultation might help. To obtain a list of five or more experienced, “employee-side” employment attorneys in or near your city, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!

3. Mistakes in contracts and compensation plans are not generally forgiven by the law, but are frequently forgiven – or endured – in real life. As a general rule, the law provides that, if one party to a contract claims there is a mistake in the contract, it cannot be changed, but if both parties to the contract agree there is a mistake in the contract, it can be changed. That is the law. 

However, in “real life” employment, which is often “outside the reach of the law,” it may be easy to get your employer to abide by its promises if it claims “We only made a mistake, and you have not been harmed.” Pushing too hard might, in fact, lead to a bad employment relation, if not something worse than that. Surely, making demands and threats would probably be counter-productive. 

4. My best suggestion: A Respectful Written Request to Senior Management. As noted above, your former manager and Human Resources Representative are no doubt trying to reduce the company’s outflow of bonus monies, and are trying to do so by reneging on a promise to you. My first inclination in a situation like this one is to suggest that you prepare and transmit to Senior Management a respectful request that, quite simply, the company provide you with what the company promised you. With both professionalism and passion, lay out the facts, the events, and what it is you are missing out on by the company trying to change what it previously agreed to do. 

Don’t forget, though, that before sending any letter or memo, you should quite carefully read over both the contract you signed, and the bonus plan the company agreed to follow. You surely don’t want to look foolish if you miss something that is in either of those two documents. Respectful, written requests like this often “do the trick.” 

Monies owed to you by present employer? To assist  you, we offer a Model Letter to show you “What to Say, and How to Say It.”™ To obtain your copy, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly! 

5. If your “Respectful Request” does not work, it may well serve as great evidence for a demand for monies owed to you, to be made after you leave the company. Quite often people think that a written request to an employer regarding (a) monies they feel they are owed, (b) illegal treatment they were subject to, (c) an injury or other harm that came to them related to their job, or (d) other complaint or claim, will just be ignored, and is not worth the effort. I say, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” and encourage positive, optimistic, hopeful thought and action.  

And even if a thoughtful, respectful, written request is ignored, it does serve a second – and often more important – purpose: it makes a good written record that (a) the claim existed, and (b) you attempted to correct it. That is important, because your claim may just continue to exist past the day you depart from the company or organization, and you can more easily – and with less fear – raise that claim again after you leave the company. (As often noted in my writings, transmission by email, with a “bcc” to your personal email address, is best.)  

In most states, “contract-based” claims like yours remain “legally alive” for a period of six years, which is a pretty darn long time. Keep that in mind when considering whether to make your written request.    

Monies due you (commissions, bonus, wages, expenses, etc.) owed you by former employer? After leaving, you are free to make  your “demand.” We offer a Model Letter Requesting Monies Due You by a Former Employer. Shows you “What to Say, and How to Say It.”™ To obtain your copy, just [click here.]Delivered by Email – Instantly!  

Christy, I hope this is helpful. I hope, too, you will at the very least consider the respectful letter or memo I suggest. Even for just writing in to our blogsite, “my hat is off to you!”  

My Best,
Al Sklover

P.S.: Our Sales Affiliates make real income by recommending our Model Letters, Memos, Checklists and Agreements. You can, too. Join the movement – help us help others. Just [click here.] 

Repairing the World,
One Empowered – and Productive – Employee at a Time™

© 2014, Alan L. Sklover All Rights Reserved. Commercial Use Prohibited.

“When is it too late to get recourse?”

Published on August 7th, 2013 by Alan L Sklover

Question: Four years ago, after 21 years of service to my school district, I was denied a transition year (some people call them sabbaticals) because of an evaluation by an Assistant Principal who was not even certified in my subject.

I was highly qualified, I have a Masters Degree plus 60 Hours of Inservice Credits and had supervised five student teachers. Instead, I chose to retire.

Is it too late for any recourse?

Patricia
Colorado Springs, Colorado

Answer: Dear Patricia: Sorry to hear about what happened to you. Although your question seems rather simple, it requires a bit of explaining. Here’s my best:  

1. How long a person has to seek recourse for a wrong that happened to them depends, first, on what lawyers call the applicable “Statute of Limitations.” The phrase “Statute of Limitations” means what it sounds like: “Law of Time Limits.” Each state sets “time limits” on certain kinds of legal actions, and how long you have to seek redress depends on the kind of legal action you bring.  

(a) For example, it is most common – but not universal – that lawsuits based on intentional injuries, such as a punch in the nose, must be brought in Court within one year of the injury.

(b) As another example, it is most common – but not universal – that lawsuits based on negligent actions, such as car accidents and medical malpractice – must be brought within three years of the negligence.

(c)  As yet another example, it is most common – but not universal – that lawsuits based on a breach of promise, often called a breach of contract, must be brought within six years of the breach.

2. That said, people are free to agree in writing to either shorten or lengthen those time limits. As a general rule, people are permitted to agree to either shorten or lengthen the time period in which to raise claims and file lawsuits. While this is a right, it has limits; for example, no Court would accept an agreement that gave an employee only three minutes to file a lawsuit, because that would be outside the realm of basic fairness.

3. If you were a member of a teachers’ Union, your Union contract might have such a time-limiting or time-extending provision. I am concerned that you might have, without knowing it, agreed to a shorter period of time in which to bring lawsuits if you were a member of a Union, to which many teachers belong. Different time periods in which to bring claims are often found in Union contracts with employers. If you were a Union member, then you would be subject to any such provisions in your Union contract. If you are a member of a Union, consider speaking with your Union Representative about this possibility.

(Incidentally, if you were a Union member, your Union contract might also limit the avenues you may have to get recourse, most commonly to what is called a “Grievance Procedure.”)  

4. Lawyers often strategize on this point: if your claim is really based in, for example, negligence, which often has a 3-year limit, a lawyer might try to characterize your claim as based in a broken promise, which has a 6-year limit. As the saying goes, “Lawyers will be lawyers.” It is part of the job – and part of the art – of a lawyer to be a zealous and creative advocate. So, if he or she can characterize a claim as based in a legal theory that carries with it a longer statute of limitations, and a statute of limitations that has not run its course, then he or she will justifiably try to do just that. Of course, the “other side’s” attorney can argue back that this is wrong. That is where Judges start to do their own work to analyze the arguments and make legal decisions. This preliminary issue, “Has the statute of limitations run its course, or expired?” is a frequently litigated point of contention.

Determining appropriate legal theories is generally lawyers’ work. You might be wise to consult with a local attorney to assist you on this topic, in particular.

If you would like to obtain a list of five or more experienced, “employee-side” employment attorneys in or near your city, just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!

5. I don’t mean to confuse you, but it is possible to sue a person for “wronging” you and base that lawsuit on several different theories at the same time. Again, we go back to what some would say is the “art” of lawyering. Suppose you paid a person $100 to deliver fresh cod fish to your fish restaurant, and that he or she delivered frozen fish sticks, instead. And suppose that this resulted in losses to your restaurant of $600 in lost business. Suppose, further, that you had no written contract, which might make your proving a contract breach difficult. You might claim your loss was attributable to negligence on the fish-seller’s part, which would give you three years to sue. You might also “plead in the alternative,” that, if it was not negligence, then it was a breach of contract, giving you six years to sue. In Court you are allowed to do just that, “plead alternative theories,” because during pre-trial exchange of documents and oral depositions you may end up finding better proof for one theory than the other. Thus, a good attorney thinks about all of these things, even though he or she may not discuss them with the client. 

6. If your “right” or “expectation” of receiving a transition year was based on a promise, an assurance, a School District policy, or even a reasonably implied representation, you probably have six years in which to seek legal recourse. Failure to fulfill promises, assurances, policies and representations are generally considered kinds of breaches of contract. I am not licensed to practice law in the State of Colorado. However, I did a bit of internet research on the issue, and found that it appears Colorado follows the most common course: it permits lawsuits based on written or oral “agreements” to be filed within six years of the breach.

7. Putting aside the law for a moment, recourse can also be pursued through negotiation; in fact, that is almost always where I suggest my clients begin. Why put yourself through the ordeals of “legal surgery,” with its expense and pain, when perhaps just a “pill” or “procedure” might work just as well, or even better. Also, why not try a “pill” or a “procedure” first; if they don’t work, then you can always pursue a lawsuit – if there is time, that is.  

Might I be so humble as to suggest you consider first sending a respectful, well-written letter to the School Board members about your feelings, and your suggested “recourse.” Because something you may write might later be held against you if litigation ever ensues, you might want to consider showing your drafted letter to an attorney licensed in your locale first, just to make sure he or she sees no significant downside risk.  

Commissions, wages or other monies owed to you by former employer? Your best bet is to make a written request. We offer a Model Letter to show you “What to Say, and How to Say It.”™ To obtain your copy, just [click here.Delivered by Email – Instantly! 

I hope these thoughts are helpful. Four years is an awfully long time to feel that you have been cheated. Don’t forget that “Action is the Antidote to Despair.”    

My Best,
Al Sklover

P.S.: Don’t forget: we offer Model Letters, Memos, Checklists and Form Agreements for almost every workplace issue, concern and problem that requires your smart navigating and negotiating. They show you “What to Say, How to Say It.™” Want to see our Entire List? Just [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly! 

Repairing the World –
One Empowered and Productive Employee at a Time™

© 2013 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.

“Garden Leave’s Little Secret: It is Not Very Enforceable”

Published on May 16th, 2013 by Alan L Sklover

Here’s 18 Smart Steps to Guide You

“Complexity (at work) has opened a great divide between
those who have mastered its requirements and those who haven’t.” 

– Brink Lindsey, in his recent
  book, “Human Capitalism”

ACTUAL “CASE HISTORIES”: Carolyn contacted us when she was about to move from one employer to another. She sought our help going through her upcoming transition. Workplace transitions are our special area of experience and expertise. As we do for all of our clients, we asked Carolyn to send to our office all of her “workplace papers,” including offer letter, all agreements signed, employee handbook and benefit and equity plans and agreements, for review prior to our consultation. 

Our review of Carolyn’s written materials revealed one potential problem: a “Garden Leave” provision existed in her Stock Option Agreement. A “Garden Leave” provision says, in effect: 

“You must give at least 90 days written notice of resignation. During that 90-day period, we have the right to have you stay at home (and ‘tend your garden,’ so to speak) and have no contact with employees or customers. Of course, you cannot work elsewhere during that period. During that period we will pay your salary and provide benefits, but not accrued vacation, sick days or bonus. We have the right to shorten that period if we wish, and let you go sooner.” 

[Note that Garden Leave periods are commonly 30, 60, or 90 days, and sometimes even 120 or 180 days.]

Carolyn said that she was needed immediately by her next employer, and she was certain her next employer would not wait those 90 days for her to begin. From our point of view, having the freedom to work where and when you want to work is a valuable freedom, and should not be given up easily. We counseled Carolyn that, while she had signed an agreement, there was not very much her employer could do to her that should worry her all that much; if her next job was really important to her – and the right to take any next job in the future – she might decide to deliberately ignore the agreement, and then just deal with the “consequences” – if any. 

After discussing the matter with us and her next employer, Carolyn decided to make her move to her next employer, and to take the risks of doing so. As it turned out, they were not all that significant: (a) she had to forfeit about $22,000 worth of stock options, (b) she did incur some legal expense, and (c) she seemed to have “burned a bridge” that was, to her mind, not that valuable a bridge to begin with. Oh, yes: she had a few sleepless nights, too. 

In retrospect, Carolyn’s decision to ignore the Garden Leave agreement she had signed was a wise one. First, though she did receive a rather nasty letter from her employer’s General Counsel that threatened “legal action,” no such “legal action” ever took place. Second, though Carolyn did lose her unvested options, she was confident that the loss incurred would be more than made up by her anticipated increase in compensation from her future employer. Third, though the squabble with her employer did cause her to delay her start at her next employer by two weeks, that did not bother her next employer; Carolyn even enjoyed having some time off. 

Looking back, Carolyn shared our view that, with a few exceptions, Garden Leave is not very enforceable, and agreed that “The only thing you have to fear is fear itself.”

LESSON TO LEARN: In the past ten years or so, employers have begun to use a new technique to protect themselves when employees depart, called “Garden Leave.” First, it acts to deter employees from leaving at once because (a) it makes the next employer wait 30, 60, 90 or even 120 days for them to start, something many employers will not or cannot do, and (b) by keeping the employee bound to them – and out of communication with clients and colleagues – they make it very hard to take clients and colleagues with them. 

The idea behind Garden Leave is rather ingenious, some would say a bit evil, but in practical effect it is not iron-clad, that’s for sure. We have helped many of our clients navigate themselves around the difficulties imposed – or seemingly imposed – by Garden Leave provisions. 

Garden Leave provisions usually, but not always, provide that you will continue to receive salary and benefits, but not receive or accrue (a) vacation, (b) sick days, (c) bonus, (d) commissions, (e) equity vesting, or (f) other payments, benefits or perquisites.  

A Garden Leave agreement is a kind of contract. “So,” you might ask, “how can I just ignore it?” The answer is that, with a few exceptions, there is just nothing an employer can do to enforce it. Here’s the analysis: 

a. Sue for damages? What damages?” The law provides two basic ways to obtain a remedy for a “wrong” that was done. The first is what most people usually think of, and call a “lawsuit for damages.” That is, someone suing someone else for, say, $100,000. This is the first thing that most employers’ lawyers will threaten, almost always as mere “hot air.” 

It is quite rare for an employer to have actual financial damages that result from an employee’s departure. It is possible if, for example, the employee is an opera singer and the opera tickets have already been sold, or an investment banker whose absence is the direct cause of a deal not closing. But in the vast majority of employee departures, there are no direct causal damages. Without direct damages caused by the employee’s early departure, there is no legal basis for a lawsuit. 

Think of it this way: if your car ever-so-lightly bumped into your neighbor’s car’s bumper, and there was no dent or scratch caused by the light bump, and no passengers were injured, there is simply nothing to sue about or for. (That is why they are called “bumpers,” you know.) 

b. Injunction to be sought? To stop what? The second kind of remedy the law makes available to people who have been “wronged” is what lawyers call an “equitable” remedy, usually in the form of an “injunction” or sometimes called “injunctive relief.” This is not a lawsuit for money, but instead a lawsuit to ask a Judge to issue a Court Order demanding that someone stop doing something that is wrong. This is called an “injunction.”

If a labor union is striking in violation of law, a Court can Order the union – by issuing an injunction – to “stop the strike” and get back to work. Or, if a power plant is spewing forth toxic chemicals, a Court can Order the power plant to stop polluting the air, or even stop operating the power plant. But, if you are not working at your former employer, and not yet working for your new employer, what can the Court Order you to stop doing . . . watching TV? Playing golf? Spending time with your children? Hardly.

Sure, if you have transferred trade secrets or customer lists, or asked customers and colleagues to leave your former employer, those could be Ordered halted by a Court – maybe. But if you have not done those things, then there is nothing to “stop doing.” 

In case you are curious, a Court cannot issue a Court Order to force you to work. Ever since this country outlawed slavery, that is simply not an option. 

c. Threaten to sue your next employer? Possibly, but rarely more than a scare tactic. Your employer’s next attempt to “enforce” your Garden Leave agreement may well be by means of a threat – made to you and/or made to your next employer, if your present employer knows who that is – to sue your next employer for some vague offense, sometimes called “tortious interference.” This is almost always nothing but a baseless threat, without meaning or effect. While there is a kind of legal claim called “tortious interference,” it is not commonly accepted by Courts, and is even less commonly successful: 

First, there is nothing in the world wrong with an employer offering a job to an employed person; every employer does that at least once a week, if not daily; 

Second, almost every employee is what we call an “at will” employee, which employers are constantly reminding us means “Either the employer or the employee may end the employment relation at any time and for any legal reasons”;  

Third, even if your former employer claims the next employer knows of your Garden Leave agreement, just as noted above, it is almost always an agreement without any damages for breach;   

Fourth, if a lawsuit is begun by your former employer against your next employer, all the next employer has to do is simply end your employment relation to end any alleged “interference”; and 

Fifth, the truth is that, if anyone is “guilty” of tortious interference, by writing a letter threatening your future relation with a new employer it is more your former employer who is the one who should fear being sued, and not a future employer, who has every right to say to someone, “Would you like to work for us?”   

No one likes being threatened with a lawsuit, and no one likes being sued. It is the fear in the mind of your next employer that, if anything, can keep you out of work for the Garden Leave period, and thus must be addressed.

d. Make you forfeit past-earned monies? Yes, possibly. If you have deferred income, perhaps in the form of deferred bonuses, or unvested equity, such as unvested stock options, it is possible – though not necessarily the case – that the terms of your Garden Leave agreement or your bonus or equity “plan” provide that you will lose these monies if you (a) voluntarily resign, or (b) resign without honoring your Garden Leave agreement. 

This is a potential “cost” of leaving an employer, and should be looked into before considering a transition. It should be noted that, under some plans and agreements, you lose your deferred income and/or your unvested equity even if you are laid off, without cause. Check your plans; this may be important, or perhaps even inapplicable, to you. And, too, consider how much the loss is worth to you. 

Incidentally, there is a legal argument to be made that the employer, by establishing a forfeiture, has “set a price” on your ignoring your Garden Leave agreement, and thus cannot seek additional “damages” from you.  

e. Might they claim you were fired? Rare and overblown; One exception: Form U-5. Any time you leave a relation – be it friendship, dating, marriage or employment – you run the risk of your former “relation-mate” bad-mouthing you. In the employment context, this can take the form of your former employer giving you an undeserved bad reference. In this situation your former employer could claim that “This person was fired for bad conduct,” referring – dishonestly – to your not complying with your Garden Leave agreement.

With one major exception, experience shows that bad-mouthing by former employers is not as much a risk as most people fear it might be. One thing is for sure: you cannot stay in an unproductive or unhealthy relation based on the fear – which might not even be real – of your former “relation-mate” saying bad things about you. 

The one major exception is if you are a Registered Representative in the securities industry. In that case, when your employment terminates for any reason, your employer must, within 30 days of the termination, file a form called a Form U-5 explaining the reason(s) for your departure. It is not unheard of for a disgruntled employer to try to smear a former employee by filing a false, fraudulent and defamatory Form U-5. This possibility – however remote – is always to be taken into account and, as noted below, steps need to be taken to minimize the chances of this happening, and if it does, minimize the harm that might take place. 

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Garden Leave is certainly not something to fear, but rather something to navigate. However, as employment transitions go, it is a bit complicated, as it calls into play several different legal and negotiating concepts at the same time. 

Read the rest of this blog post »

“Can a non-compete agreement require that New York law applies even if the company is not in New York?”

Published on March 28th, 2012 by Alan L Sklover

Question: Can the company I work for have a letter of non-compete based on the law of the State of New York even though they have no office in that state? Can this non-compete apply overseas? 

Jum
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Answer: Dear Jum: As you are probably aware, I am not licensed to practice law in Saudi Arabia, but only in New York, in the U.S. However, I have done a bit of research on Saudi Arabian employment law on the internet in preparation for this answer. This is what I have found:          

1. In general, employers and employees are free to agree that a certain law will be used to interpret and enforce their agreements. Non-compete agreements are a kind of contract. Most legal systems in various states and countries respect the right of people to enter into contracts if they wish, and part of that right is the right to choose which law will apply to the interpretation and enforcement of those contracts. It is something like deciding the rules of a game before playing the game. It does not matter that the employer has no office in the state or country in question.        

2. Many employers insert “New York law will apply” into their agreements because New York law is very business-oriented, and willing to enforce non-compete agreements. New York law is chosen by many employers for their agreements, including their non-compete agreements, because New York law is very “business-oriented” and “employer-friendly.” New York law also reflects the composition of New York and its culture: very understanding of diverse cultures and perspectives, and very commerce-friendly. And, too, so many large businesses and organizations have some presence in New York.

3. However, courts in some states and countries sometimes refuse to abide by such “choice-of-law” provisions in contracts. In the U.S., California is widely known as a state where the Courts will, with few exceptions, simply refuse to enforce a non-compete agreement, even if the agreement says New York law will govern and control. This is because California has a strong public policy in favor of freedom in employment.

4. Saudi Arabian Courts will not use any other law but Shariah Islamic law to interpret and enforce contracts in that country. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia follows Shariah law, whereby all agreements must be made in accordance with the principles of Islamic law. Shariah accepts  the general principle of the freedom of contract, and will enforce a contract – including a non-compete –  but only if it adheres to Islamic law.

The four basic principles of Shariah Islamic law as they apply to business affairs are as follows: (a) Honesty and Fair Trade (so that one party manipulating or overpowering the other party will invalidate an agreement); (b) Full Disclosure (so that both parties to an agreement must disclose all faults or shortcomings to the other); (c) Avoidance of Misrepresentations (prohibiting false representations of fact or intent); and (d) Avoidance of Gharar, or Deceit (including both outright fraud and errors of judgment, and requiring clear detail on each material point).

In Saudi Arabia, a non-compete agreement that says New York law will govern its interpretation and enforcement will be enforced, but not according to New York law, but instead under the principles of Shariah law.  

If you have any interest in obtaining our popular “185-Point Guide and Checklist for Non-Competes,” simply [click here].

So, Jum, an employer can insist on a non-compete letter that includes a “New York Law” provision, but the Courts of a state or country where the employee works can refuse to accept that portion of the non-compete agreement, and judge the non-compete by its own standards.

I hope this is of assistance to you. Thanks for writing in from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. I hope you will tell your colleagues of our blogsite, and what it offers employees, worldwide.      

Best Regards,
Al Sklover

Repairing the World –
One Empowered and Productive Employee at a Time ™

© 2012 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.

“Employer has reneged on all agreed terms. What are my rights?”

Published on August 4th, 2011 by Alan L Sklover

Question: Hi, Alan. I joined a company in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as a Health and Safety Executive (or “HSE”) Manager. Though I have been here for over three weeks, the employer has not provided me with anything that was stipulated in my contract. I have not received the promised accommodations, vehicle or even pay (today is pay date.)

 I have given 30 days notice. What rights do I have? Can they fire me? Answer gratefully received.  

Alan
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Answer: Hi, Alan. Bearing in mind that I am not licensed to practice law in Saudi Arabia, or Great Britain where I believe you traveled from, here are my thoughts on your situation:         

1. Generally speaking, you have a right to what was promised in your contract – if anything. The first place to look to determine your rights is the contract you signed with your employer. That contract may give you ample and robust rights, and then again, it may give you nothing at all in the way of rights. Generally speaking, you have a right to have your employer fulfill each of the promises made to you in the contract. Even in different cultures, the notion of a right to “contractual promises” is near universal.

2. You may also have certain rights not by your contract, but by local law. In addition to what may be in your employment contract, local laws often give employees additional rights. In some places, certain employees – even if they have no contract – have a right to (a) additional monies (often called “overtime”) after working 40 hours in a week, (b) minimum notice before being fired or laid off, (c) a safe work place environment, and (d) paid holidays, healthcare and meals. It would seem to me that the local law in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia would be the “local law” that would be applicable to your situation because you are located there, and the work you were supposed to do was there. You might try to find a local attorney to guide you.   

3. Having rights is one thing; enforcing rights is another thing altogether. Sad as it may be, just because you have some legal rights, doesn’t mean that those rights will be honored. That is, you may need to “convince,” “motivate” or “scare” your employer into honoring your rights. Don’t think the only way to do that is to bring them to a court. We often recommend a letter be sent to the CEO, or the members of the Board of Directors, respectfully requesting that promises be fulfilled, with the unwritten but implied notion that public lawsuits are not good for corporate reputations. Then again, you may have to bring a suit in a court, either by yourself (in law, we call that the Latin phrase “pro se”) or with the help of a local attorney.

4. First, you need to determine where to enforce your rights. As a general rule, legal rights can be enforced in any court in any country where the employer does business of some kind. And, as you can imagine, courts in some countries are “friendlier’ and easier to use than courts in other countries may be. I believe that you came to Saudi Arabia from Great Britain. If your employer has offices or does business in Great Britain, that may be the best place to enforce your legal rights. By the way, your employment contract might stipulate (a) in what courts you can bring suit, and even (b) what country’s law applies. Where to enforce your right is both a strategic and tactical issue that an experienced attorney can guide you through.

5. To answer your second question: Yes, though you have given a resignation notice of 30 days, in most countries an employer can still fire you in the meantime. In most places, the law says that during the time of your “resignation notice,” your employer may choose to end the relation before the notice period expires by firing you. That is a risk that most employees take in being honorable to their employers. I admire your self-respect in giving 30 days notice, but I also must “warn” you that your employment could also end abruptly at your employer’s choosing.  

Alan, thanks for writing in from Saudi Arabia; to my knowledge, you are our first question-submitter from that country. I hope this helps. And I hope, too, that you get out of your messy situation without too much grief, and find new work for a more honorable employer.  

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Best,
Al Sklover

© 2011 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.


Alan L. Sklover

Alan L. Sklover

Employment Attorney
and Career Strategist
for over 35 years

Job Security and Career Success now depend on knowing how to navigate and negotiate to gain the most for your skills, time and efforts. Learn the trade secrets and 'uncommon common sense' of Attorney Alan L. Sklover, the leading authority on "Negotiating for Yourself at Work™".

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