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Current Developments in the Commercial Divisions of the
New York State Courts
Posted: January 8, 2015

At-Will Employee Can Assert Breach of Contract Claim for Wages Owed

On December 31, 2014, the Second Department issued a decision in Webb v. Greater N.Y. Auto. Dealers Assn., Inc., 2014 NY Slip Op. 09121, holding that an at-will employee could bring a breach of contract claim relating to her employment when the claim was for wages already earned.

In Webb, the Second Department reversed the trial court’s dismissal of the plaintiff’s breach of contract claim on the ground that as an at-will employee, she could not assert a claim for breach of an employment contract, explaining:

[T]he plaintiff sufficiently pleaded a cause of action sounding in breach of contract by alleging all of the essential elements of such a claim: the existence of a contract, the plaintiff’s performance pursuant to that contract, the defendant’s breach of its contractual obligations, and damages resulting from that breach. Although the plaintiff is presumed to be an at-will employee who may not maintain a breach of contract cause of action based on an alleged wrongful termination of employment, the plaintiff’s breach of contract cause of action is not based on her alleged constructive discharge from employment but, rather, seeks to recover unpaid, agreed-to compensation for services actually rendered. Her at-will status does not bar such a claim.

(Internal quotations and citations omitted) (emphasis added).

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