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When employment contracts expires, but work continues, does the employee become "at will?"

New York, NY |

I am a FT employee, and I have an employment contract that expires on 11/1. My employer has been giving me work that will extend past that date. Without a contract in place, but still a full-time employee, do I become an "at will" employee? Per our company's severance policy, "at will" employees who are not under contracts receive severance. If I am terminated on 12/1, would I qualify for severance?

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Attorney answers 4


Does your contract have terms regarding extending or renewing it? If you are being given work to complete that requires work beyond the contract term, you should at least ask for an extended term to cover that work. Without a contract, you would be an employee at will in NYS, and it is clear that you understand the ramification of that in your current work situation. We cannot give guidance as to severance; that is subject to your company's written policy so look there.

Robert K. Erlanger

Robert K. Erlanger


And we further could not give you guidance without reading the written policy ourselves.


I do not recommend just going along and wondering what will happen. You should get it in writing before the contract expires.


It will partly depend upon the language in the contract. If it contains a provision stating what happens after the term expires, you will be covered under what that says. If not, in New York, you will become an employee at will.

This answer does not constitute legal advice and you should contact an attorney to confirm or research further any statements made in this answer. Any statements of fact or law I have made in this answer pertain solely to New York State and should not be relied upon in any way in any other jurisdiction. Additionally, we also encourage you to reach out to us via Twitter (!/employattorney) or Facebook ( if you have follow up questions as we do not monitor questions after providing an initial answer.


If your contract is going to expire on November 1, 2013, this is the time to schedule a consultation with an experienced employment lawyer, to determine – based on what your goals are—whether it makes sense to propose an amendment to the contract, or an extension of the contract—perhaps with terms about severance that are protective of you.

Please don’t delay getting legal advice, since time is running out.

-Denise K. Bonnaig

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