Workers in certain positions or fields must sign employment agreements when they begin working for a new employer. An employment agreement is a legal document that specifies what the employer expects of the worker, and what the worker will receive in compensation for the job. Employment contracts may be temporary or last for the duration of a worker's career.
Employers are legally obligated to abide by all the terms in an employment agreement. This includes making all wage payments and incentive payments on schedule. Employers who withhold wages or are late making payments or delivering benefits are in violation. Employers also violate employment agreements when they terminate a worker for reasons other than those allowed in the agreement. Since most of an employer's responsibilities in an employment agreement relate to compensation, a pay issue is the most likely violation by the employer.
An employee who refuses to attend events, follow orders from superiors or follow a prescribed work method may be in violation of an employment agreement's terms. Other violations include failure to follow company ethics policies and harassing colleagues. Employees can also violate their agreements by disregarding the employer's attendance policy. When an agreement includes noncompetition terms, it means that the employee is in violation if she goes to work for a competitor or opens her own competing business, even after leaving the job that came with an employment agreement.
Some employment agreements outline the consequences of violations by the parties, such as termination or monetary damages. In other cases, one party must take the other to court to seek damages for breach of contract. If either party can show a significant financial loss due to the other's violation, the court may award a cash settlement. In some cases, such as sexual harassment, an employee who violates an agreement may need to pay twice -- once to the employer for breaching the contract and again to the plaintiff in a separate sexual harassment suit.
Not every employment contract violation results in legal action. If an employment agreement requires a worker to comply with all company policies, supervisors may not enforce every minor policy if the worker is still productive. At the same time, workers who feel as though an employer is in violation may prefer to keep working rather than lose their jobs and spend the money necessary for a prolonged legal battle. Courts use state labor and contract laws to settle employment agreement disputes, which means that court decisions vary by location and are subject to changing laws and trends over time.