Alabama State University’s first female president created almost as many headlines as her contract. Gwedolyn Boyd is a reverend, single, and the university’s first female president. She is not the University’s first single president, though. As president she will receive $300,000 a year, and will be able to live in the president’s house on campus.
However, her contract covers more than where she’ll live, how much
she will be paid, and her health benefits. Her contract also contains a
“love clause,” stating that Boyd will not “cohabitate with any person
with whom she has a romantic relation.” The restriction only applies for
as long as she is single and living in the president’s house on campus, but this clause still bothers many people. Boyd, however, says that not
only did she read the contract before she signed it; she also did not
have a problem with the terms in the contract.
The Contract Controversy
In this case, the university’s contract is setting terms on more than the president’s employment; it’s putting conditions on the president’s private life and personal time. Beyond the obvious concern of an employer taking over one’s entire life, there is also the matter of how an employer would monitor and track all of an employee’s activities. The university told the local ABC affiliate reporting on the story that the clause was in part due to increased scrutiny on university presidents. Even with added scrutiny of university presidents, many wonder if the university’s increased ability to scrutinize its president’s personal life was the best method for improving the university’s image. In response, the university also stated that Boyd could have changed
the contract if she had wanted.
Employment agreements may contain any number of terms and clauses governing everything from pay to hours to dress code. These terms guide the relationship between the employer and employee.
Employment contract terms also tend to only apply while on the employer’s property or while on the clock, since they are for employment purposes. Furthermore, in most cases, if a person does
not agree with the terms of the contract, they may either attempt to negotiate, or refuse to sign and seek other sources of employment with more agreeable terms.
Courts and employers assume that an employee has read and agreed to any terms and conditions that are in a contract, if the employee has signed that contract. Courts also look to the reasonableness of the terms and negotiation power of both parties when determining if an employment contract or any of its terms are enforceable. For instance, if an agreement includes a clause stating that an employee will forgo overtime pay in exchange for better health insurance benefits, and the employer is the only employer in town, then not only would the clause be unreasonable and violate state and federal law, but the court would not enforce the clause because the employee did not have the power to actually negotiate and agree to more reasonable terms. Usually,
employment terms are less extreme because employers prefer to have enforceable contracts with their employees. But that does not mean employees should assume that all terms in employment agreements are reasonable and non-negotiable without reading them closely.
If you are looking for assistance in drafting, reviewing, or disputing an employment agreement, HKM employment law attorneys can help.