So, in Wallace, discussed previously when the case was pending, we now have in the decided opinion the following concerning compensation–and this is important–allegedly for services actually rendered before at-will employment was terminated:
Even accepting Wallace’s premise that the verbal offer and acceptance in 1983 plus the 2004 on-call posting created a contract, to satisfy the statute of frauds, an employment contract must contain all essential terms, including duration of the employment relationship. McCoy v. Spelman Mem’l Hosp., 845 S.W.2d 727, 730 (Mo.App.1993). No such term existed here. Absent a valid contract, Wallace’s breach of contract claim must fail.
This is, of course, unsound. Although at formation there may be some indefiniteness in the terms of the bargain (such as when it will end), the parties’ performance can fill-in the missing component–the term. The employee is entitled to bargained-for compensation for services the employee provides–the performance of the contract determines the term.
Is the authority cited by the Wallace court, McCoy, about recovery of bargained-for compensation for work previously provided under an at-will contract? No. It’s about seeking compensation for having been terminated before an alleged five-year term claimed to have been provided orally.
Is there Missouri authority allowing recovery of compensation of services actually rendered under a bargained-for under an at-will arrangement, when the employer sought to get away with paying less. Sure:
For the services which the plaintiff has performed, he himself admits he has been paid, with the exception of the $12.75, which have been deducted for his board bill, as he claims without authority.
We are of opinion that there is substantial evidence showing that the plaintiff is entitled to this amount with interest, and that to that extent, but no further, the verdict of the jury is supported by substantial evidence. As the cause has been repeatedly tried, and no other result can be accomplished by a re-trial, we will not remand it, but enter judgment here.
Evans v. St. Louis, I.M. & S. Ry. Co., 24 Mo.App. 114, 1887 WL 1749, at *3 (Mo. App. 1887).
Thus, for example, one will see that an at-will employee who has earned some performance bonus before the employer elects to terminate him is entitled to the bonus. E.g., Wright v. Cofield, 730 S.E.2d 421 (Ga. App. 2012).
Wallace illustrates what happens when a court takes bromide out-of-context. One hopes that this erroneous observation in Wallace gets a second look, in one forum or another.