When you want to bring on a new employee, it’s not as simple as a nod and a handshake to get the deal done. In today's world, every detail of that relationship should be hammered out in detail before you bring on a new employee. In most cases, this relationship should be detailed in an employment agreement (but you should also have an employment handbook as well).
Here are some key things you should pay special attention to in your company’s employment agreements.
That the Relationship is “At-Will”:
In most states, the default rule is that the employment relationship is “at will” unless otherwise specified. Despite this, you will want to make clear wherever possible to your employees that they are at will employees, so that you can avoid a situation where a terminated employee sues you for breach of the employment agreement by arguing that you promised them more than an at will employment relationship.
A Detailed Job Description:
It is not uncommon for an employer to be willing to work for an employer for the right amount of remuneration, but it is important as a career professional to look out for your future career prospects and the possibility of growth in your current job. It is therefore essential to understand what your day-in-day-out duties will be and opportunities to grow within your job assignment. Most employers opt for adding vague clauses such as the job description that says, "and other related duties" to include all possible things they can have you do as an employee. Although, it may not be possible to exclude such language entirely from your employment contract, try to get it as much hemmed down to specifics as possible. It is not unique in employment situations to become a catch-all for assignments that others deem to be a chore. As a new employee, it is important to be able to pay attention to doing what you are good at and a well tied-down job description can do that for you.
Work Outside of Work and Compensation:
In today's digital workplace you are reachable by your employers and your employer's clients almost anywhere at any time of the day. Most employers, in lieu of providing you with perks that seem like freedom, like being able to telecommute, overload you with work even after business hours have ended. It is important to be mindful of this and find a good balance of benefits and its hidden costs and agree to things that tax you with more work dressed as a luxury and freedom.
If there are items in your employment agreement about working remotely make sure you understand that and either have tightly defined work hours or have extra compensation schedule for work done remotely outside of work hours.
Some employers add clauses like “work all the necessary hours that the job requires” in employment agreements, beware of such clauses and either get them removed or get a clarification of what it means (Preferably in writing).
Your Rights to Intellectual Property and Non-Compete or Non-Solicitation Clauses:
If you are working as an employee whose job directly entails creating new products or working on a specific technology or specialty, you might be required to sign away what you create while working for a specific employer and be asked to agree to not create the same product for another employer. Such an agreement can severely impede your ability to choose another employer or even starting your own business. In this case, it is essential to understand your rights under the agreement and to even consult an attorney to draft something that allows you to earn a living should you decide to leave your current employer.
As someone in sales, you might also be required to sign a non-solicitation agreement to not approach clients that you sold your company’s services to. Non-solicitation contracts are much more difficult to enforce but in today’s digitize and surveillance prone society, it is becoming much easier to monitor almost all contacts. It is therefore very important to understand your rights and negotiate a contract that allows you to be able to earn a living after leaving your employer.
In conclusion, employment agreements are legally binding and often strictly enforced contracts that can have a huge impact on your career, your compensation and your growth as a successful employee. It is therefore especially essential to read it thoroughly, understand its implication and if necessary seek legal advice before signing it.