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Is a verbal employment contract enforceable?

Echo, OR |

I've been doing some work on the side to help make ends meet, all with just verbal contracts. I was promised some pay for work. I've done the work, but haven't been paid yet. Am I out of luck?

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Attorney answers 4


Yes, a verbal employment contract can be enforceable. Your best bet is to get the employer to agree in writing to your rate of pay, whether it be per hour, per job, or something else. This way you move away from a he said/she said situtation.


Yes, verbal contracts -- regarding employment, and also many (most) other things -- can be enforceable. Depending on the particulars of your situation, there are a number of potential avenues you might be able to pursue to collect any outstanding payment(s) due. None are as easy and straightforward as they would be with a written contract, of course, so if you plan to continue to work in this manner you should likely consult with an attorney to draw up a form contract that you can use with various employers.

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J Christopher Minor

J Christopher Minor


I agree with Mr. Parks' answer. However, depending on the type of work you were doing, and whether it requires some kind of license to do that type of work, there could be other issues. If you were acting as an employee and not an independent contractor the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries might be able to help you.


An oral contract can be enforceable. The problem is that it can also be changed by actions prospectively (for the future), but cannot be changed after you perform the work. So if they agreed to pay $10.00 per hour. You work 10 hours and are due $100. But, if the employer says, from now on, you get $9.00 per hour. If you continue working, likely, you are earning $9 per hour. However, if the employer pays $9 per hour, when you had agreed that you were getting $10, then you remain due wages. It is not neccesarily easy to prove, but if proven you would be due wages. If your employment ended, you could be due penalty wages of up to 30 days of wages.

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Yes, it's a myth that a contract has to be put in writing to be binding. Oral contracst can be ebforcebale, as well as contracts "inplied in fact" byt he parties conduct.

But it's always a good idea to document who's doing what in exchange for what, so a judge would know how to enforce the contract, with the who, what, when, where, how much, etc. detail all apelled out. Also a good idea to provide that the prevailing party in any dispute is entitled to their legal fees. That makes it easier to get a lawyer if things go wrong and ups the ante to breach. See a lawyer to do this right.

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Can you tell me if the Director (highest level for my dept) along with Project Management offered me a position with the agreement that I would be paid per diem in addition to my wages, then later stated I was confused and that it was a discussion not an offer - even though the word OFFER was specifically used - is this enforcebale as well? I have documented proof via IMs between Director & myself, as well as emails between Project Management & HR & the Director. Project Management asked HR to do the paperwork for the position offering me the standard package (noting it includes per diem). Then Director said for HR not to do anything she would take it from there - HR in home office would handle it. Later stating the offer was never made. This started a long list of harassment from this Director. Home office HR finally (via the director) offered me a lesser amount made one payment (not going back to correct start date of original offer) then the Director removed me from the position. She told me (a lie) stated I was in trouble for complaints about me from peers - then stated she was doing me a favor by NOT telling HR. She stripped me of my title (never changing my pay) falsified my review, and put me on probation (falsified) for a seperate incident. She continued to threaten and harass me hoping I would quit. When I finally told HR - it took 6 months to investigate. They apologized & said I could reapply for any job available for my original title - and it was like it did not happen. Each job I applied for, I was denied. This caused great anxiety & stress as well as damaged my professional reputation. This caused health issues & time off, which was then used against me as a reason why I could not go back to old position. Finally the day after my medical disability accommodation ended they fired me - citing attendance. Would I have a case to recieve back pay, and damages for the hostil work environment, discrimination, defimation of charactor & lost wages - or is it too late. Between the start date with the per diem & fire date it was 2 years (of hell) total?

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