Signing an employment contract feels great. It enables you to start your new job with a feeling of stability, and it gives you confidence that your employer will behave in a professional manner. Some employment contracts even grant you perks that state law does not grant you, such as paid vacation time or paid parental leave. If your employer does not live up to the promises they made in the employment contract, you have the right to file a lawsuit. Imagine your disappointment, though, if you sue your employer for breach of contract, but the court decides that the contract was never enforceable, so you are left empty-handed. The best way to avoid this costly problem is to have the Alabama employment contract lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP review your employment contract before you sign it and begin your new job.
How to Draft an Employment Contract
Alabama laws give employers and employees a lot of leeway in setting the terms of an employment contract. As long as the terms to which you are agreeing do not violate federal or state laws, the courts will enforce the contract in the event of a contract dispute. For example, even though Alabama law does not require employers to provide paid leave of any kind, it allows employers to agree in the employment contract that they will provide a certain amount of paid leave, and the court will require the employer to pay it if the employee files a lawsuit about it.
These are some items that an employment contract should contain:
- The full legal names of the parties
- The date that employment will begin
- A detailed description of the employee’s job position
- All compensation the employee will receive, including but not limited to salary, paid leave, health insurance benefits, retirement contributions, reimbursement for relocation expenses
Equipment issued to the employee by the employer, requirements for and restrictions on its use, and instructions for its return to the employer at the end of the employment relationship
- The end date of the contract period, and the procedures for renewing it if it is renewable
- The procedure for early termination of the contract
- Procedures for repairing a breach of contract, such as giving written notice of a breach and setting a deadline for repairing it before getting the courts involved
Which courts will have jurisdiction to rule on disputes arising from the contract
Before you sign an employment contract, you should review it with the Alabama employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP. Your lawyer can identify any provisions in the contract that are unenforceable or that would lead to a court decision unfavorable to you and can suggest amendments to the contract before it is signed.
Alabama Employment Contract Laws
Alabama is an at-will employment state, which means that employers can terminate employees’ jobs for no reason, unless there is a written contract. Alabama law requires that employment contracts be in written form, or else courts will not enforce them. The only exception is if the job duties can be accomplished for less than a year. For example, if a couple hires you by verbal agreement, three months before their wedding, to plan the wedding, and then they do not pay you, you can still take them to court to enforce the verbal agreement. The safest option is to get a written employment agreement, even for a job that lasts less than a year.
Breach of Contract Lawsuits
You have the right to sue your employer for breach of contract if your employer does not fulfill the obligations that they promised to fulfill in your employment contract. Your employer can also sue you for breach of contract, for example, if you quit your job earlier than agreed on in the contract and you do not fulfill the obligations indicated for you in the early termination clause.
These are some common reasons that employees sue their employers for breach of contract:
- Failure to pay the contractually agreed upon compensation
- Creating working conditions that make it impossible for the employer to fulfill their obligations indicated in the employment contract
- Wrongful termination of employment
Are Non-Compete Agreements Legal?
Non-compete clauses in employment contracts are a common cause of disputes in Alabama. In a non-compete clause contained within the employment agreement, or in a non-compete agreement signed separately from the employment contract, the employer forbids the employee to open a business that directly competes with the employer or to reveal confidential business information the employee gained while working for the employer when the employee gets a new job.
If it sounds unfair to bar an employee from ever practicing their profession in Alabama after finishing their work for the employer, it is. (For example, non-compete clause that said, “Upon termination of this contract, Dr. Gutierrez may not practice emergency medicine in Alabama for ten years,” would clearly be unenforceable, because it would effectively require the employee to get licensed to practice medicine in a different state or to complete a new medical residency and enter another field of practice.) Alabama courts often declare non-compete clauses unenforceable when they unfairly restrict the employee’s work options.
Force Majeure Clauses in Alabama Employment Contracts
Many employment disputes could be avoided if the contracts included force majeure clauses. A force majeure clause lists the force majeure events (sometimes also called “acts of God”) that would cause non-performance of contractual obligations while protecting the parties from liability for breach of contract. Even if you have only lived in Alabama for a few years, you have already experienced two kinds of force majeure events, namely hurricanes and the COVID-19 pandemic. Other types of force majeure events include wars, widespread Internet outages, and blizzards.
Contact an Alabama Employment Contract Lawyer
Start your new job off right by discussing all the details of your employment contract with a lawyer before you sign it. An employment lawyer can help you understand the terms of your contract and, if appropriate, recommend revisions to it. Contact the Alabama employment contract lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP to set up a consultation.