Oral Contracts

In some instances, an employer may make oral promises to an employee regarding job security. These promises often take place before the employee is hired and are often intended to entice the em-ployee to work for the employer. Although employees may have difficulty proving that an employer has made an oral promise, courts frequently enforce such promises of job security.

As is the case with a written contract, the specific language than an employer uses when making an oral promise will determine whether a court will enforce the contract or treat the relationship as one that is at will. Courts are more likely to enforce a contract that states a more definite period of time. Such a period of time may be very specific, such as a promise for employment for one year, or it may be determined in some objective manner, such as a promise that an employee will remain employed until the completion of a particular project. Courts have struggled with other types of promises, such as a promise of “permanent” or “lifetime” employment. Some courts treat an employment relationship under such a promise merely as an employment at will relationship, while other courts view such a promise as a commitment to continued employment so long as the employee remains alive.

Inside Oral Contracts