California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI)

2420. Breach of Employment Contract - Specified Term— Essential Factual Elements

[Name of plaintiff] claims that [name of defendant] breached an employment contract for a specified term. To establish this claim, [name of plaintiff] must prove all of the following:

1. That [name of plaintiff] and [name of defendant] entered into an employment contract that specified a length of time that [name of plaintiff] would remain employed;

2. That [name of plaintiff] substantially performed [his/her] job duties [unless [name of plaintiff]'s performance was excused [or prevented]];

3. That [name of defendant] breached the employment contract by [discharging/demoting] [name of plaintiff] before the end of the term of the contract; and

4. That [name of plaintiff] was harmed by the [discharge/ demotion].

Directions for Use

The element of substantial performance should not be confused with the "good cause" defense: "The action is primarily for breach of contract. It was therefore incumbent upon plaintiff to prove that he was able and offered to fulfill all obligations imposed upon him by the contract. Plaintiff failed to meet this requirement; by voluntarily withdrawing from the contract he excused further performance by defendant." (Kane v. Sklar (1954) 122 Cal.App.2d 480, 482 [265 P.2d 29], internal citation omitted.) Element number 2 may be deleted if substantial performance is not an issue.

See also CACI No. 304, Oral or Written Contract Terms, and CACI No. 305, Implied-in-Fact Contract.

Sources and Authority

Labor Code section 2922 provides: "An employment, having no specified term, may be terminated at the will of either party on notice to the other. Employment for a specified term means employment for a period of greater than one month."

Labor Code section 2924 provides: "An employment for a specified term may be terminated at any time by the employer in case of any willful breach of duty by the employee in the course of his employment, or in case of his habitual neglect of his duty or continued incapacity to perform it."

Civil Code section 1439 provides, in part: "Before any party to an obligation can require another party to perform any act under it, he must fulfill all conditions precedent thereto imposed upon himself; and must be able and offer to fulfill all conditions concurrent so imposed upon him on the like fulfillment by the other party. . . ."

"[L]abor Code section 2924 has traditionally been interpreted to 'inhibit[] the termination of employment for a specified term except in case of a wilful breach of duty, of habitual neglect of, or continued incapacity to perform, a duty.' " (Khajavi v. Feather River Anesthesia Medical Group (2000) 84 Cal.App.4th 32, 57 [100 Cal.Rptr.2d 627], internal citations omitted.)

"Stated simply, the contract compensation for the unexpired period of the contract affords a prima facie measure of damages; the actual measured damage, however, is the contract amount reduced by compensation received during the unexpired term; if, however, such other compensation has not been received, the contract amount may still be reduced or eliminated by a showing that the employee, by the exercise of reasonable diligence and effort, could have procured comparable employment and thus mitigated the damages." (Erler v. Five Points Motors, Inc. (1967) 249 Cal.App.2d 560, 562 [57 Cal.Rptr. 516].)

Secondary Sources

1 Wrongful Employment Termination Practice (Cont.Ed.Bar 2d ed. 1997) Contract Actions, § 8.20

21 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 249, Employment Law: Termination and Discipline, § 249.21 (Matthew Bender)

(New September 2003)