A written contract is proof that the people who signed it agreed to do certain things or to accept certain things from each other. Without a contract, it is difficult to prove that someone made a promise to you and to get the court to require them to fulfill their promises. This applies to all kinds of disputes in civil court involving written agreements, whether these are contracts of sale, prenuptial agreements, lease agreements, or employment contracts, among other types of contracts. An employment contract can go a long way toward protecting your rights as a worker in North Carolina. Unfortunately, though, flaws in your employment contract could leave you vulnerable when it comes to collecting the money that your employer has promised to pay you or to the court requiring you to abide by a non-compete clause that limits your options for finding your next job after you stop working for your employer. The Charlotte employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP can help you decide whether the terms of the contract your employer is asking you to sign are fair and can also help you resolve disputes connected to an employment contract that you have already signed.
North Carolina Employment Contract Lawyer
An optimist would say that, if you have an employment contract at all, you are in a better position than most, and they would have a point. North Carolina is an at-will employment state, which means that, if you do not have an employment contract, your employer can fire you for any reason, even if you did not do anything wrong. Some employment contracts guarantee you the right to paid parental leave or to severance pay, neither of which are automatically guaranteed to workers whose contacts do not specify these privileges, much less to workers who do not have employment contracts at all.
These are some things to look for in a good employment contract:
- If your employer has verbally promised you something when offering you the job, make sure that you have that promise in writing in your contract. These promises could relate to reimbursement for relocation expenses, work-related travel requirements, confidentiality, paid leave, and end-of-service bonuses, among other matters.
- It is clear about the renewal. For example, if the contract does not automatically renew itself when the contract period ends, it should specify the procedures for renewing it. If it automatically renews itself, it should specify the procedures for canceling it.
- A good contract should specify the procedures for repairing a breach of contract. Plenty of instances where employees threatened to sue their employers for breach of contract, or the other way around, could have been prevented if the employment contracts involved had done a better job of outlining the procedures for repairing a breach of contract and had offered multiple opportunities for reconciliation before resorting to litigation.
What Can Go Wrong With Employment Contracts?
Under the best circumstances, employment contracts prevent disputes before they begin. For example, the end of a contract period may require both parties to decide whether to renew the contract. You might be able to seek out competing job offers so that you can negotiate for a raise before signing the new contract. Even better, the contract might specify that you will automatically receive higher pay if the employer decides to renew your contract.
The best employment contracts make it easy to resolve disputes related to the contract. No document can guarantee that your employer will be honest, treat you fairly, or remain financially solvent. Contracts that leave too many loopholes about the dispute resolution process put you at a disadvantage, as do contracts that contractually bind you to dispute resolution procedures that are tilted in the employer’s favor. If you sign an employment contract that contains employer-unfriendly provisions, you are consenting to a court enforcing these provisions. You cannot deny that you signed, and you face an uphill battle in trying to persuade the court that the employer used fraud or duress to get you to sign.
Arbitration clauses are a common feature of employment contracts, so many employees do not think twice before signing contracts that contain them, but they can put the employee at a serious disadvantage in the event of a dispute. When you sign a contract that contains an arbitration clause, you are waiving your right to sue your employer if the employer breaches the contract or otherwise violates your rights, and it is costly and time-consuming to win back your right to sue.
Talk to an Employment Contract Lawyer Before You Sign
Unless you are an employment lawyer, a lot of the text of an employment contract can just look like generic boilerplate. Even if you read it carefully, you might not be aware of all the implications of the provisions of the contract. Therefore, it is a good idea to have the employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP review every line of your contract and discuss parts of it that could lead to trouble if you agree to them.
It might be intimidating to ask a new employer to change parts of your contract before you even start your job, but you have the right to do this; it is unlikely than an employer will rescind a job offer just because you asked for pay or benefits beyond what the employer initially offered or because you requested the removal of an arbitration clause or the modification of a non-compete clause. If an employer has offered you a well-paid job after a lengthy recruitment process, they are probably willing to negotiate the terms of the contract. Your Charlotte employment lawyer can help you with these negotiations.
Contact a North Carolina Employment Lawyer About Employment Contracts
An employment lawyer can help you secure a dispute-proof employment contract that formalizes your employer’s promises to you; do not be afraid to negotiate for terms that are favorable to you. Contact the employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP in Charlotte, North Carolina to set up a consultation.