A contract is a written promise between two parties, legally enforceable in court. In an employment contract, an employee promises to perform certain job duties in a certain place for a certain period of time, and an employer promises to pay the employee a certain amount for these services. Even though the purpose of employment contracts is to prevent disputes, they can only accomplish this if both parties understand the implications of all the provisions of the contract before they sign. If your employer offers you a job, be sure to read all the fine print in your employment contract. Better yet, review all the provisions of the contract with an employment lawyer. The Philadelphia employment contract lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP can help you negotiate for better terms in an employment contract that a prospective employer has offered you and can help you resolve disputes arising from an employment contract that you have already signed.
What are the Parts of an Employment Contract?
The law gives great flexibility to individuals and businesses in determining the terms of contracts; it will enforce any provisions that the parties have agreed to, as long as they are not illegal or unconscionable. Therefore, your employment contract can say almost anything, as long as you are not promising to break the law in the context of your work and as long as your employer is promising to pay you fairly. The more details you include in your employment contract, the more easily a court can enforce it in the event of a dispute, even when it seems like you are stating the obvious or covering unlikely “what if” scenarios.
- These are some elements that you should include in your employment contract:
- Your name and the name of your employer
- The date and place you signed the contract
- When the work will begin and where it will take place
- How much your employer will pay you and the frequency of paychecks
- Whether the contract automatically expires (and if so, its end date) or automatically renews
- How to terminate the contract early or extend its term
- What constitutes a breach of contract and which situations where one party is unable to fulfill its obligations do not count as breach of contract (such situations are called force majeure events)
- How to resolve disputes arising from the contract
It is a good idea to have a Philadelphia employment lawyer review an employment contract that an employer has offered you before you sign it. A lawyer could point out possible interpretations of various clauses in the contract that you might have overlooked. You can negotiate employment contracts before you sign, not only regarding salary and benefits, but also regarding the procedural parts of the contract, such as force majeure clauses and dispute resolution procedures.
How Do Employment Contracts Protect Employees?
Pennsylvania law offers protections to all workers, whether or not they have employment contracts. Not every employee in Pennsylvania needs a contract in order to hold a job; companies and employees have the right to enter into an employment relationship on an at-will basis. In at-will employment, the employee has the right to quit at any time, and the employer has the right to fire the employee at any time. Even with at-will employment, the employer must pay the employee at least the state minimum wage and must provide the employee with breaks during his or her shift. The employer must pay for treatment of the employee’s work-related injury if the employee files a workers’ compensation claim, and except in the case of very small businesses or recently hired employees, the employer must allow the employee to take an unpaid leave of absence from work for medical or family caregiving reasons.
Employment contracts tend to be for well-paying jobs that offer benefits beyond the legal minimum. A job with a contract is much more likely to provide paid time off, reimbursement for postgraduate education, and other valuable benefits. Most importantly, when you have an employment contract, you have your employer’s promises in writing. It is much easier to prove that your employer did not do something that they explicitly promised to do than it is that your employer broke the law or violated ethical standards in some abstract sense. Employment contracts can also lead to solutions that do not involve lawsuits. Sometimes you can resolve conflicts with your employer simply by following the instructions listed in your contract.
What are Your Rights if You Do Not Have an Employment Contract?
If you do not have an employment contract, you still have recourse to the courts if your employer does not honor your rights as an employee. The only difference is that you cannot sue for breach of contract, since no contract existed for your employer to breach. For example, you can sue your employer for withholding your pay or for wrongful termination of employment.
Employment discrimination laws apply both to employees who have signed contracts and those employed on an at-will basis. Filing a discrimination complaint is a protected activity for employees with and without employment contracts, but you cannot just go straight to court and file an employment discrimination lawsuit. As a prerequisite, you must first contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) so that these entities can conduct an investigation to see if you have grounds for a lawsuit. You must contact the EEOC no more than 45 days after the most recent discriminatory action by your employer that prompted your complaint. It is a good idea to contact a Philadelphia employment lawyer before initiating your employment discrimination claim.
Contact HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP About Employment Contracts
The Philadelphia employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys, LLP can provide resolve disputes related to breach of contract and other issues with your employment contract. Contact the employment lawyers at HKM Employment Attorneys LLP in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to set up a consultation.