Federal Court Rules Against Georgia Worker on Breach of Contract Claim Regarding Pay

There are many different issues that can arise in an Atlanta employment law dispute. In addition to matters like discrimination and harassment, an employee may seek legal redress for unpaid or underpaid wages.

Sometimes, such a claim is pursued under state or federal wage-and-hours laws, but this is not always the case.

Depending upon the circumstances, a breach of contract action may provide a viable remedy for an employee who believes that he or she has not received the pay that he or she was rightly due.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a recent federal case considered on appeal by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit was a nurse who filed suit against defendant, a provider of home healthcare services to the elderly, alleging that the defendant had breached an express contract for skilled nursing services to certain patients to whom she provided “host home services.” According to the plaintiff, the parties had operated under an express oral contract from 2007 to 2014 concerning her pay for skilled nursing services to the defendant’s patients.

Then, in mid 2014, the defendant allegedly told the plaintiff that it would no longer pay separately for her services to “host home” patients for whom she was providing care in her home pursuant to a separate, written agreement. The plaintiff filed a breach of contract action against the defendant, seeking to recover the lost wages to which she was entitled under the alleged contract. The United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia granted summary judgment to the defendant, and the plaintiff appealed.

Outcome of the Appeal

In an unpublished opinion, the court of appeals affirmed the district court’s opinion. According to the court, the contract upon which the plaintiff relied to assert her claim against the defendant was an “indefinite oral contract,” which, under Georgia law, was terminable at will. The defendant did not have to have a specific cause to end the contract.

Therefore, the court held that, when the defendant told the plaintiff that it was no longer going to pay her separately for her skilled nursing services to the “home host” patients, the oral contract between the parties ended. There being no contract upon which she could rely to support her claim, the court agreed with the lower tribunal that summary judgment was appropriate.

In so holding, the court noted that, while it was conceivable that the plaintiff could have pursued a quantum meruit claim against the defendant, the district court had expressly denied her motion to add such a claim to her complaint. The plaintiff did not appeal that ruling, so there was no reason for the court to consider such a claim on appeal.

Talk to a Georgia Employment Law Attorney

If you believe that your employer has breached an agreement regarding your pay or otherwise run afoul of the law with regard to a wage and hour issue, you need to talk to an attorney as soon as possible. Employment law claims concerning pay must be pursued in a timely fashion, or else an employee will be deemed to have waived his or her legal rights. For an appointment to discuss your Atlanta unpaid hours, flex pay, tipped employee, or equal pay act claim, call Attorney John L. Mays at the Parks, Chesin & Walbert law firm at 404-873-8048 today.

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