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Can’t Get Something for Nothing – Modifying a Contract

A friend recently explained an interesting situation to me that I think is quite common.  He/she entered into a valid contract with his/her employer.  A few weeks later the employer added additional terms to the agreement which my friend reluctantly agreed to.

Of course, the question was can the employer enforce the terms that were made after the formation of the original agreement?

I think everyone is familiar with the phrase “you can’t get something for nothing” and it definitely rings true in this situation.  Any modifications to a contract must be supported by independent consideration.  I’m sure some of you are saying, “What the hell does that mean?”  Let me explain.  Consideration exists if there is a bargained for exchange.  Meaning the person making the promise, i.e. my friend above, must be getting something in return for his or her promise which he or she does not already have.  If the person making the promise gets nothing in return, then consideration does not exist and the modification is likely invalid.

Now back to the situation above.  Because my friend made additional promises without getting anything in return from the employer, his/her additional promises, i.e. the modification, are not enforceable because they aren’t supported by consideration.

Interesting stuff huh?  Maybe not for everyone, but it probably is for those like me who are fascinated with the daily contracts which we enter into each day of our lives.

As always, your comments are always welcomed.

Ryan Pauley

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