Even if you have a written contract with your employer, there's no guarantee that your employer will live up to his or her obligations.
If that happens, you may be able to pursue a civil lawsuit for breach of contract. If you're successful, here are two possible remedies the court may order:
Generally speaking, the goal of a remedy is to make you "whole," or put you in the position you would have been in had the breach never occurred. Compensatory damages are probably the most common way to do this in employment claims.
For example, imagine that your employer wrongfully terminated your employment a month early to avoid paying you a year-end bonus. If your civil suit was successful, the court would likely order your employer to pay you the final month of your contract and the year-end bonus.
Quantum meruit is Latin for "as much as deserved." These types of damages might be available if you breached the contract with an employer due to unavoidable circumstances, but the employer is withholding some payment unfairly.
For example, imagine that you were hired to build a company's website, but you became ill halfway through the project. You turned over your work to the person who subsequently finished the job to avoid causing the employer any undue harm. The court might consider it reasonable for you to expect payment for the work that you had already completed prior to the breach and order the employer to compensate you.
If you're uncertain whether you have a valid claim for breach of contract, talk to an attorney today. An attorney can evaluate the specifics of your case.