Friday, November 22, 2013

Your Career and the Right Employment Agreement

In part one of this two part series, I went over some items that employers should focus on in an effective employment agreement. These included the need for a good employee handbook, policies on equal opportunity and harassment, considerations for social media postings and email, and the definition of contract employment.

Here in part two, we will examine the other side of the agreement, focusing on items that protect the interests of the employee.

Detailed job duty description: Both sides will want to have a clear understanding of what is expected of the employee in their new job. The agreement should include clear language describing the employee’s duties and the employer’s expectations of the job. This will help prevent any confusion or misunderstanding regarding job performance down the line.

Employee Handbook: This document is important to the employee as well as the employer. The employee should examine the handbook closely to determine how job performance will be monitored and what the various company policies are that would need to be followed.  Understanding what’s in the handbook is a good way for the employee to ensure that they do the right things at work to keep their job.

Access to employment file: The employer will be keeping many records about the employee while they work there; and the employment agreement is a good place to set forth what the employee’s access to those records will be, if any. The employer may have specific guidelines for how and when the file can be requested by the employee and whether it’s an open record or maintained for the sole use of management.

I usually recommend that the employee have access to their own file, but it’s also important to spell out who else can see it. For example, do co-employees have the ability to view the file? It’s usually best that access is limited solely to upper level management for purposes of evaluation, promotions, a raise, etc., and that this limitation be spelled out in the employment agreement.

Attendance and leave policies: This is another area where it is best to have documentation of what’s expected. Employees should be mindful of taking time off in case of emergency, family matters, illness, etc. By examining these topics at the beginning of employment, they can help prevent conflicts with their employer in the future when unforeseen events happen.  

Alternative dispute resolution: It’s best that every employment agreement provide that before an employee can sue the employer for misconduct or discrimination, the two sides should go to mediation.

Another strong recommendation for this section is that employers, before termination of an employee, go to mediation to resolve the perceived disciplinary problems. This approach can significantly reduce litigation costs as parties can first sit down and try to talk through issues rather than immediately resorting to the courts.

Confidentiality agreement: Both parties will want to have this language in place. This is simply an agreement between employer and employee that neither side should disclose confidential information to third parties.

Termination: It may not be the topic one wants to consider when starting a job, but it’s good to at least keep it in mind — how can the employee be terminated? Can one individual manager terminate the employment; or does the decision go to upper-level management? This should be clearly outlined in writing for both sides. It’s usually best that no single manager be able to dismiss an employee — upper level management should be in charge of this — but it’s not always the case, so setting it out in the employment agreement eliminates confusion should the event ever come to fruition.

Severance pay upon termination for no-cause: Generally when an employer wants to retain employees with a certain skill or expertise, they will offer some incentive to stay with the company. A severance package is a good way to accomplish this. Discuss with the employer what will happen in certain scenarios. For example, should the employee leave voluntarily, will they still get a severance package — then make sure language covering all the possibilities is included in the employment agreement.

If you are an employee examining an employment agreement and need assistance, contact my office. We can discuss the particulars of the employment agreement that is being considered and how it could affect you and your career.

Disclaimer: Nothing in this posting should be construed as legal advice or the commencement of an attorney-client relationship.  The opinions are solely those of the author acting in his capacity as an author, not an attorney.

No comments:

Post a Comment