Is a handshake a legally binding contract?

UPDATED: Aug 5, 2011

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Is a handshake a legally binding contract?

I was hired at a local company, promised a salary and a yearly bonus. I put my 2 weeks in at my last job, then started my new job. A few days later, I was informed that the position I was hired for no longer existed. there was no paper contract, just a verbal agreement and a handshake to close the deal, can I sue?

Asked on August 5, 2011 Missouri


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

You may have grounds to force them to honor their commitment.

1) An oral or verbal agreement is, generally, speaking, binding. It is not necessary for a contract to be on paper to be a contract. All that is necessary is agreement between two parties and each party offering some consideration, or thing of value--the job; and your promise to work.

2) In addition, if you quit your former job due to the committment that you had a new job, the prospective employer may be prevented--or estopped--from denying its promise. When someone reasonably relies on a promise, and in reliance upon it changes his or her position to his or detriment, and the promising party knew or should have known that the promisee would do that, then that may be enough to enforce the contract.

It would seem to be worthwhile for you to consult with an employment attorney.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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