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The Yoga Teacher's Employment Contract, Part 2

Should yoga teachers have employment contracts? If so, what should they be thinking about when negotiating such agreements? This column builds on Part 1 by focusing on more detailed aspects of the contracting process between yoga teachers and their employers.

By Michael H. Cohen, JD, MBA

One final legal wrinkle about the contractual process between yoga studios and teachers is worth noting: in general, contracting parties typically reduce legal agreements to writing. This way, the terms are set forth in language that can guide the parties during their professional relationship; or that a court can later interpret, if it has to. But some oral contracts still can be enforceable, so long as the legal elements of offer, acceptance, and consideration are present.

Get it in Writing
Because of the concern for fraud, the law limits the kind of oral contracts that are enforceable. A legal rule known as the "statute of frauds" lists the kind of contracts that are unenforceable if oral—that is, unenforceable unless reduced to writing. The list of such unenforceable oral contracts includes contracts that, by their terms, cannot be performed within one year.

"By their terms" means that the contract terms expressly preclude performance during one year. For example, a two-year contract for yoga teaching cannot be performed during one year, and therefore must be in writing to be enforceable. On the other hand, if the yoga studio and teacher contemplate that the yoga teacher might stay for, say, six months to three years, but they do not specify a definite term, then the contract does not fall within the Statute of Frauds—in other words, it is still enforceable even if only oral. In many states, though, even such an oral contract, to be enforceable, must at least be evidenced by a written memorandum, setting forth the terms, signed by the party against whom a party is seeking to enforce a deal. For example, if the yoga teacher is suing the yoga studio to enforce a contract term of six months, the studio owner must have written such a memorandum, even informally. And in many states, if such a memorandum is lacking, the contract still can be enforced where one of the parties admits the existence of a valid oral contract, where the oral promise has been partly performed, or where one has induced justifiable reliance on the promise on the other's part.

These rules are complex, and as the ultimate outcome is factually dependent, and it is useful to hire legal counsel in complex situations that could lead to litigation. To avoid this situation, the best advice is to always put contracts in writing. That way you do not have to worry about the statute of frauds, and you do not have problems proving what you agreed to. The written contract is your evidence that you have a contract, and is evidence of the terms to which you agreed.

As suggested, the most important provisions of the legal agreement between yoga studio and teacher include: (1) the yoga teacher's duties, (2) the obligations of the studio to the teacher, (3) termination (reasons for ending the contract, and what obligations will still be owed on either side upon termination). In Part 3, we'll take a look at key contract provisions to negotiate for, and specific language to avoid.

Michael H. Cohen, JD, MBA is Principal in the Law Offices of Michael H. Cohen and publisher of the Complementary and Alternative Medicine Law Blog (www.camlawblog.com).

The materials in this website/e-newsletter have been prepared by Michael H. Cohen, JD, MBA and Yoga Journal for informational purposes only and are not legal opinion or advice. Online readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional legal counsel.


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Nayan Regmi

I want to be yoga teacher . I have ingaged in this field since one year and I have fot many training and practice of yoga instructor.

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