Take the 2-minute tour ×
Programmers Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professional programmers interested in conceptual questions about software development. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Please don't close this as offtopic. According to the FAQ I can post programming related questions.

I was working on a project and when it was half way completed (1 weeks work), the employer backs out and refuses to pay me.

Shortly before this he was being very rude. He was having problems configuring the server and he told me it was my fault and that I had to fix it. After I spent several hours trying to figure out the problem, it turned out to be his fault.

After this when I put the code on the server. He found 1 bug that I had missed. He freaked out, accused me of being a bad programmer and told me that the code was shit and that he couldn't use it. He said that if there is a bug in the code, that means the code is bad and he can't use it. He would have to throw the code away and hire someone else.

His kept reiterating his argument: "why should I pay for code that I can't use". And I kept telling him the code was fine and urged him to have another programmer give him a second opinion. But he would have none of that. He said he would compensate me for my troubles by paying me 250$. Then he changes his mind and lowers that to 200$. Then a third time he changes his mind and says he doesn't want to compensate me at all.

I'm left frustrated because besides being rude, he did not at any time tell me he was unhappy with the work that I was doing.

So my question is; Is the above a valid reason to back out of a verbal contract in your opinion?


migration rejected from stackoverflow.com Jan 8 at 7:40

This question came from our site for professional and enthusiast programmers. Votes, comments, and answers are locked due to the question being closed here, but it may be eligible for editing and reopening on the site where it originated.

closed as off-topic by gbjbaanb, gnat, MichaelT, GlenH7, Bart van Ingen Schenau Jan 8 at 7:40

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

  • "Questions seeking career or education advice are off topic on Programmers. They are only meaningful to the asker and do not generate lasting value for the broader programming community. Furthermore, in most cases, any answer is going to be a subjective opinion that may not take into account all the nuances of a (your) particular circumstance." – gbjbaanb, gnat, MichaelT, GlenH7, Bart van Ingen Schenau
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

>According to the FAQ I can post programming related questions - Yes, but this is a business/legal question. –  Mike C. Mar 17 '11 at 15:14
Bad experience, but still off-topic; I suppose that programmers.stackexchange.com is the right place for this. –  Matteo Italia Mar 17 '11 at 15:14
"Please don't close this as offtopic." A bad, bad thing to say. Either stick to on-topic questions, or don't ask it here at all. –  S.Lott Mar 17 '11 at 15:21
@Costas it's not a good reason to back out, but you are using the wrong terminology - it's a verbal AGREEMENT, it means nothing if it's not on paper –  Patrick Mar 17 '11 at 15:39
A verbal contract is very hard to prove in court. Take this as a lesson to always get your contracts in writing, and have them signed and notarized. It's only then that you have a leg to stand on in small claims court. –  Berin Loritsch Mar 17 '11 at 17:03

3 Answers 3

Any reason or no reason is enough to back out of a verbal contract. Verbal contracts are non-binding and you should have saw this coming.

Next time get everything important, such as how much you will be paid, in writing.

Verbal contracts are legally binding, at least in some jurisdictions. However, it's hard to prove exactly what was said in court, so they're really hard to enforce. If you're dealing with an amount of work or money above your worry threshhold, get it in writing. –  David Thornley Mar 17 '11 at 20:35
Also, have when payment has to be made in writing. Make sure the contract won't allow your client to withhold money for more work than you're willing to not get paid for. Contract long enough, and you will be stiffed. The secret is to avoid being stiffed for too much. –  David Thornley May 5 '11 at 22:02

You wrote this code. That means that you own the copyright on it - unless there is a contract that says otherwise. If there's no contract, then you own the code, and the customer does not have any right to use it. If there is a contract, he owes you money. Either way, you win. Get a lawyer.

  • The actual task might have been canned by the higher ups.
  • There might exist a possibility that You really might not have done a good job ( happens at times to every one of us)
  • If he is a programmer / or technical person he probably would not reacted the way he did.
  • The actual task might be more important than hes let on.
  • For sure the way he's dealing with you is wrong. If you had a formal contract which i assume you don't you probably would not even have posted this topic.
  • Definitely a good lesson learnt about the employer which am sure you aren't going to forget.
  • Is it worth your time effort and reputation to pursue further action else MOVE ON
If the project is canned, there's probably a provision in the contract with cancellation terms (or there should be), so that wouldn't really be a breach. The possibility of the work not being up to par is subjective, and if you (as an employer) breach over that, I think you'd want to make sure you can defend the decision in court (if it comes to that). –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Mar 17 '11 at 15:52
Surely a good lesson for Costas in regards to VERBAL CONTRACTS –  Aditya P Mar 17 '11 at 16:02
I don't know enough about how the law relates to verbal contracts, so I'd really suggest talking to a lawyer. –  FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Mar 17 '11 at 16:07