Whether you’re an employer or an employee, your employment contract is one of the most important documents you’ll have to sign during your working career. Employment contracts are legally binding agreements and can be used in court during employment disputes. It’s not advised that you work without some kind of contract or written agreement. This article is helpful for those about to sign a new employment contract and have questions about what to look out for. If you need immediate help and want to speak with an employment contract lawyer, call
(844) 934-2387 today.
Your contract is vital for both you and your employer, so everyone’s expectations are clearly defined. Review your contract thoroughly before signing. If there are things that stick out to you, or things you’d like to change, be sure to discuss them with your employer.
Employment Laws and Protections
Certain federal laws and regulations protect you as an employee. Your state likely has other additional laws, which also protect you as a worker. The United States has the following federal employment laws:
- Wages and the Fair Labor Standards Act, which allows nonexempt workers from earning a minimum of $7.25 an hour and outlines basic overtime rules.
- Immigration and Nationality Act, which allows aliens to work under various visa programs.
- Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH), which outlines health and safety regulations both private and public sectors must follow.
- Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, which offers compensations and medical care to injured and disabled maritime employees.
- Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Act, which offers compensation to Department of Energy employees who have been overexposed to radiation.
- Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA), which allows injured or disabled workers to receive compensation after a workplace injury resulting in permanent disability or death.
- Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act, which protects union funds and promotes various union standards.
- The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which requires employers to give their employees unpaid time off under certain conditions.
In addition to these laws, federal law says that you cannot discriminate against employees or applicants based on race, religion, sex, nation of origin, age, disability, or genetics.
If you don’t have an official contract, there are other documents you can use that have been used in employment disagreements. Before accepting any job, review the terms and conditions of your employment contract, handbook, or union agreements. If there’s any kind of written statement broken by your employer, you can sue for damages.
Before going to court, you should try to negotiate a settlement with your employer. If they refuse, it’s time to call an employment lawyer.
What To Expect In a Normal Employment Contract
Employment contracts shouldn’t be as simple as a “copy and paste” template from Google. Every business and industry is different. Some normal things you should find in your contract as an at-will employee are:
- Probation period and terms
- Rate of pay including commissions details, profit sharing, and bonuses
- Payment schedule (bi-weekly, salary, etc.)
- Termination details (with cause, without cause, and during probation)
- Scheduling details
- Duties and responsibilities as an employee
- Vacation time and pay
- Extended benefits
- Additional benefits for monthly allowances like discounts, phone plans, and meals
Your job may not offer additional benefits. Although it’s unfortunate your employer may not offer benefits like health insurance, they likely won’t include a statement on this unless they’ve stated it’s included in the job.
There are some details that although they’re incredibly restrictive for employees, it’s not illegal for an employer to include these in contracts. Some restrive clauses you may find in your employee contract include:
- Lengthy notice periods (anything more than 2-3 weeks in most cases is restrictive)
- Confidentiality or non-disclosure clauses
- Non-compete clauses
Although it makes sense that your employer wouldn’t want you working for a competitor while also working for them, non-compete clauses shouldn’t exceed your time of employment. This is an especially important clause to review if you’re a freelancer or want to freelance on the side.
And although confidentiality clauses are important to prevent competitors from getting intel on your employer, this does not exempt you from whistleblowing. Whistleblowing allows you to intervene and contact the authorities if you see something illegal or unethical. Your employer cannot fire you or punish you for doing this.
Also Read: 6 Rights Whistleblowers Should Know
Red Flags in Employment Contracts
Employers cannot discriminate against potential employees according to federal law. This means your employer cannot contradict any of the following in your contract:
- Nation of origin
For example, it would be considered discrimination if your employer purposely included a clause saying you’re only allowed to speak English in the workplace. Another example may be an employer requiring only female employees to wear skirts at all times. If something in your contract makes you uncomfortable or discriminated against you, try to speak candidly with your employer. When your employer refuses to negotiate or revindicate their job offer, call a lawyer immediately.
If your potential employer doesn’t have an employment contract, take this as a red flag. Similarly, empty promises your employer says you’ll “ talk about down the road” are also a major red flag. Everything promised to you or that’s promised to your employer should be written down in a legally binding contract.
At-Will Employment and Contracts
Most workers are considered “at-will” employees. This means that your employer can fire you at any time for any reason. Similarly, you can also leave your job for any reason at any time.
In your employee contract, there may be certain things in the “cause for termination” clause that state what you can be fired for. Even with this clause, your employer can still fire you for something ridiculous, but they will likely have to compensate you if they break the contract.
If you’re not compensated after being wrongfully terminated, you can sue your former employer.
Costs To Hire an Employment Contract Lawyer
Having a lawyer review your contract can cost anywhere from $150 to $5,000. If you need an employment lawyer to draft or negotiate contract details, it could cost up to $5,000. Most firms offer package rates if the contracts are especially if you have a complex contract or have an extensive problem at hand.
If you have a specific issue or just need something explained to you, a lawyer can quickly help you for $150 to $300. Most of the one-off quick questions like these are done over the phone or in a teleconference like Zoom. MyCaseHelper works with qualified employment lawyers across the country who can do this over the phone at any time. Calling does not cost anything and some legal partners can give free legal advice on your employment contract.
An employment contract lawyer can also help you with:
- Drafting and reviewing employment contracts.
- Resolving workplace disputes.
- Unfair dismissals or wrongful termination.
- Discrimination cases.
- Payment issues.
- Stock and shareholding agreements or negotiations.
- Drafting revised agreements and policies.
- Independent contractor or freelancing advice.
To book an appointment with a MyCaseHelper partner today, go to our employment lawyer page here.