Employment contracts are an effective way of preventing disputes between employers and employees, but sometimes disagreements are inevitable. If an employer wants you to work for them without a written contract, you should run in the opposite direction, or at least you should consult an employment lawyer. Without an employment contract, it is your word against your employer’s about pay, health insurance benefits, job duties, work schedules, and even what you can and cannot do after you stop working for that employer. Likewise, if your employer does not give you enough time to read the contract and think about it, preferably discussing it with a lawyer before you sign, that is also a red flag. The good news is that a Minneapolis employment contract lawyer from HKM Employment Attorneys LLP can help you resolve almost any contractual dispute between an employer and an employee.
What Should an Employment Contract Cover?
No two employment contracts are identical because no two jobs are exactly the same. If your employer hands you a boilerplate contract downloaded from the Internet, it is a bad sign. Likewise, while brevity is often a sign of good writing, an insufficiently detailed employment contract leaves the door open for disputes. These are some details that most employment contracts should include:
- The duration of the contract period
- The procedures for renewal or non-renewal of the contract
- The employee’s job duties
- The amount of pay and the schedule according to which the employee will receive it
- What constitutes grounds for dismissal from the job
- Benefits associated with the job, including but not limited to health insurance coverage, retirement accounts, and paid leave
- Information about trade secrets and non-compete requirements
- Details about ownership of intellectual property that the employee creates while employed by the company
- Procedures for resolving disputes related to the contract, such as which courts have jurisdiction, and whether arbitration is the only option
If the terms of the contract are not what you were hoping for, the time to discuss this with your employer is before you sign. It is much easier to negotiate about an employment contract before you sign it than it is to amend a contract after you have already signed, indicating that you agree to its terms. You should review an employment contract with a lawyer before you sign it, especially if it is for a position that you expect to hold for a long time or that involves a lot of proprietary information that you must keep confidential.
Breach of Contract Lawsuits Between Employers and Employees
Breach of contract happens when one of the parties to the contract, the employer or the employee, violates the terms of the contract. Imagine how much financial damage it would cause you if your employer abruptly stopped paying your salary or if one of your employees shared the company’s confidential information with one of your competitors? The financial losses would be substantial enough that it would be worth going to court.
Of course, not all allegations of breach of contract end up requiring a judge to rule on them. In many cases, it is possible to repair the breach. For example, the employer can pay the employee the past-due salary they owe, or the former employee can return the company-issued computer that the contract required them to return at the end of the employment period. In other cases, though, the breach is so severe that the only remedy is to end the employment relationship and have the breaching party pay the injured party compensation for the financial losses they caused.
Can Your Employer Make You Give Up Your Right to Sue?
One of the parts of your employment contract that you should read the most carefully is the article about resolving disputes that arise in relation to the contract. Some people skip over this part and do not read it carefully because they assume that they will never end up in a legal dispute about the contract or because they are more concerned about other aspects of the contract, such as the job description or intellectual property concerns.
From the perspective of an employee living in Minnesota, you want your employment contract to say that the courts of Minnesota have jurisdiction to rule on disputes arising from the contract. Some employment contracts include arbitration clauses, meaning that the only way to resolve disputes is through arbitration, where the parties must negotiate outside of court, instead of litigation, where a judge decides in favor of one party or the other. You should consult a Minneapolis employment contracts lawyer before signing a contract that contains an arbitration clause.
Are Non-Compete Clauses Legal, and are They Fair?
Non-compete clauses appear in many employment contracts, and like arbitration clauses, they tend to benefit the employer more than they benefit the employee. A non-compete clause specifies certain employment positions that the employee cannot hold for a certain period of time after the employee stops working for the employer. Specifically, non-compete clauses usually prohibit the employee from working for a direct competitor of the employer (another company in the same industry in the same city) for one year or two years after the period of employment ends. When used properly, non-compete clauses can help companies protect their trade secrets. Sometimes non-compete clauses are unfairly restrictive, effectively forcing the employee to move out of state or enter another career field. Courts will refuse to enforce unfairly restrictive non-compete clauses. While Minnesota law does not explicitly forbid non-compete clauses, it generally assumes that they are unfair, and in litigation about non-compete agreement disputes, Minnesota case law tends to favor the employee’s perspective.
Contact a Minneapolis Employment Contract Lawyer
Being offered an employment contract is a cause for celebration, but do not get so caught up in the moment that you sign the contract without reviewing it in detail. If you are unsure about anything that your employer is asking you to agree to, you should discuss it with a Minneapolis employment contract lawyer before you sign. Your lawyer can also advise you on how to negotiate with the prospective employer for a contract with better terms. Contact the Minneapolis employment contract lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP to set up a consultation.