If you worry about job security, you are not alone. Most employees worry about how they will make out if their company fires them or lays them off but most still sign employment documents that impact their rights without even reading them. While it is not helpful to worry, it is wise to take precautions.
A good employment attorney can be your best friend when it comes to looking over documents you are asked to sign at the beginning, middle, or end of your employment. This is because a legal representative with comprehensive knowledge of state and federal employment law knows precisely what to look for to ensure that you are not signing indecipherable legal documents that may work against you and your family in the future.
Some employment documents could bar you from gaining employment with other employers in the future, waive your legal rights, and could even expose you to liability to your employer. Your attorney will provide insight regarding what could happen if things go wrong or if they already have, will give you options to defray the negative impacts these documents are causing you. In some cases, your attorney will be able to negotiate with your employer or former employer to release you from these contractual obligations.
Which employment documents are most likely to be troublesome?
Employment agreements and documents that define your work duties and compensation are pretty straightforward, as are provisions explaining what types of behavior (such as sexual harassment or racial discrimination) will not be tolerated. Contract provisions that are more likely to cause employees problems in the future are those that:
- Restrict future employment with competitors of the company;
- Limit severance;
- Contain non-disclosure/confidentiality provisions regarding certain products or information;
- Restrict contact with your clients upon termination; and
- Don’t protect you sufficiently from wrongful termination.
The contracts employees are often asked to sign include the following:
- Non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) which protect your present employer’s confidential information, such as innovative concepts, trade secrets, and client lists. Because you may be the one who came up with the innovative concept or the one who brought in the lucrative client, there may be ways for you to use this information or take your clients with you. The boilerplate language in most employment agreements will not carve out such exceptions for the employee, which is why you need an attorney to assist you in negotiating a more reasonable contract.
- Non-Compete Agreements are also designed for your employer’s protection. What you may not fully process without adequate legal representation is that, depending on how specialized your occupation is, you may have difficulty finding any job that is not with one of your present employer’s competitors unless you relocate. Some non-competition agreements are also worldwide and would essentially require you to change careers. A savvy employment attorney will be able to help you at the time of hire or after termination, to circumvent such restrictions on your future employment, particularly if your former employer has threatened to sue you for breach of contract.
- Severance Agreements define the “severance package” you will receive when you lose your job, but they do come with certain restrictions and require you to waive legal rights. If you have been given a severance agreement, do not sign it right away. Instead, contact an attorney for guidance and to help you protect your legal rights and best interests.
Consulting with an Experienced Employment Attorney Will Protect Your Civil Rights
Although friends and relatives may be well-trusted, they are not likely to have familiarity with the nuances of employment law. Be smart and consult with an employment attorney to help you understand your options and make certain that you don’t get stuck with unfair terms in an employment agreement.