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Can An Email Exchange Constitute A Legally Binding Contract?


When you are in the process of accepting a job offer, you should be given an employment contract to review. It will include things like salary/wages, schedule, duties, confidentiality agreement, benefits, and a non-compete agreement. While it’s not uncommon for these elements to be verbally discussed, they should also be documented in paper and/or digitally. But does that mean what you agreed to in a meeting isn’t legally binding? Brown Kwon & Lam explains what constitutes a legally binding contract.

In simple terms, a legally binding contract is that which holds four key elements.

  • 1. An offer
  • 2. Acceptance of the offer
  • 3. Consideration
  • 4. The intention by both parties to create a legal relationship

So does this mean an email can be a legally binding contract? Yes.

Many individuals on both the employee and employer side of a contract believe that if a physical document was not signed, there is no contract. However, that isn’t always the case. If a conversation, email, text message, etc. contains relevant language and benefits, it can become a legally binding contract in the court’s eyes.

Consider this: Before accepting a job offer and beginning employment, you tell your potential employer what you need as an employee. This may include severance, non-compete timelines, benefits, and a set start salary.

While this starts as an in-person exchange, it continues to email where you list what you need, your employer counteroffers, and then, radio silence. But you are told to start work. You take that to mean that the employer has agreed to your terms. And rightfully so as you receive an email from HR that your boss has said the agreement is final.

But then you get fired. Suddenly the severance you were guaranteed is no longer on the table. Your employer claims, no written contract, no deal.

But the courts will tend to disagree–as has been legal precedent throughout New York. In general, if the four elements of an employment contract are present (offer, acceptance, consideration, and intention), the email can be found to be a legally binding contract.

But what does this mean as an employee? Should you not get a written offer?

It is always best to have both digital and physical copies of your employment contract, signed and dated with the intentions of both parties to avoid legal debate. But if, for example, your employer is based on the other side of the country and you are working remotely, digital may be what you have.

If you have concerns about the legality of your employment contract, contact the employment contract dispute attorneys at Brown Kwon & Lam. We will help you determine if your email correspondence constitutes a legally binding contract.

Contract Disputes NY: Brown Kwon & Lam

If you have concerns about the validity of your employment contract, let the employee rights attorneys of Brown Kwon & Lam review your case. Contact our employee rights attorneys today. We want to help.