You have a written employment agreement that says you will be paid $75,000 a year, in monthly payments. In December, your boss says, “sorry, apparently we have been in a recession since last December, I can only pay you $60,000 a year starting now.”

You don’t respond – don’t agree, and his proposal is not put in writing.

TRUE OR FALSE – the Boss can unilaterally change your contract?
TRUE OR FALSE – if you agree, you can orally modify a written contract?
TRUE OR FALSE – if you disagree, the original contract still stands.

a. FALSE. In order to change a contract, you must have a meeting of the minds. One party cannot change a contract unilaterally, that is essentially a breach.

b. MAYBE. Virginia law has a list of contracts that cannot be modified orally. Check out Va Code section 11-2. For example, contract to sell real estate cannot be changed upon oral agreement, must be in writing. So while you may be able to agree to a change orally, you may not… “When an oral modification is made to a contract, the new contract departs from the terms of the original contract only in terms of the contract that are different from the first. Both the written and the oral contract must be examined to determine the bargain reached.”

c. TRUE. If you don’t agree to a modification, the contract still stands…

Please make sure you are very clear about your employment contracts. Why bother writing and signing one if the changes aren’t taken seriously?

Lauren Ellerman
Lauren Ellerman

In 2011, Lauren Ellerman was named "Young Lawyer of the Year" by the Roanoke Bar Association for her work in the community. To speak with Lauren about your personal injury case, contact her at lellerman@frithlawfirm.com.