Category Archives: interpret a contract

Should Parol Evidence be Used When The Terms of an Employment Agreement are Unambiguous?

In Margot W. Teleki v. Talk Marketing Enterprises, No. a-1448-11T2 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. 2012), the court was presented with a common legal issue: whether parol evidence may be used to interpret a contract.  The court determined that it could not because the contract was unambiguous.

Parol evidence is evidence that is extraneous to a contract and is used to interpret its meaning.  The law discourages the use of parol evidence since contracts are meant to be interpreted by their actual wording.  Therefore, unless the contract is ambiguous or there are other exceptional circumstances, parol evidence will not be allowed.  Id. at 16-17.

In this case, since the employment agreement at issue clearly stated that wages would be paid to the Plaintiff, the failure to pay those wages provided personal liability to the principals of the employer  under NJSA 34:11-4.1 and 4.2 (New Jersey Wage Payment Law).  The fact that there was an “understanding”, as demonstrated by parol evidence,  that there would be no personal liability was irrelevant.

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