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The difference between a minor and material breach of contract

The purpose of any business contract, including for employment, is to make the agreement and responsibilities between two or more parties explicit and legally binding. However, it doesn't guarantee the parties will fulfill their ends of the contract. When this happens, it's an actual breach of contract, and the harmed party can take legal action against the one who made the breach. The type of breach determines whether or not the affected party still has to perform its duties and maintain the contract. The two main types of actual breaches are minor and material.

Minor breaches

A minor, or partial, breach is when one party doesn't fulfill a portion of its obligations but still delivers the majority. The harmed party may sue for damages but is not relieved of its side of the contract. The courts use six guidelines to determine whether a breach is minor or material.

  1. How much work the breaching party already finished
  2. If the action was intentional, negligent or innocent
  3. The level of certainty that the breaching party will complete the contract
  4. How much the affected party benefitted from the work already performed
  5. How much compensation the affected party can receive
  6. How classifying the breach as material would affect the breaching party

Another consideration is if the contract clearly elevates a detail normally deemed as minor as being important, such as one party specifying an inflexible completion date to meet its business deadlines.

Material breaches

A material breach is similar to a minor one except that the breach is significant enough that the harmed party doesn't have to keep its end of the contract. If the contract is an ongoing one, then the innocent party also has the option to either maintain or terminate the contract altogether in addition to collecting damages. A breach can also be anticipatory, meaning one party recognizes that the other will not perform its duties or meet its promises, and therefore ends the contract and sues before the breach even occurs.

What to do when there is a breach of contract

If you have experienced a breach of employment contract, the best thing to do is to seek legal assistance. Although Florida law allows you to file a claim for up to five years after the incident, it's wise to take immediate action. An attorney experienced in employment contract disputes may determine what legal action is appropriate to take so you can receive the compensation you deserve.

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