Employment Contracts in Washington


An employment contract is the written document that an employee and his or her employer sign at the beginning of the employee’s position with a company. Not every job requires employees to sign employment contracts. Usually, positions that come through employment agencies and independent contracting jobs require the use of employment contracts because the type of work done in these situations is more specialized. Specific tasks are to be completed within a set time frame, unlike other types of jobs where the same duties are performed each day and employees can be easily replaced, like cashiers.

Washington is an at-will employment state, which means that employees may leave any job at any time without giving any reason for leaving. Similarly, employers may terminate any employee at any time without giving notice or reason, outside of discriminatory firing on the basis of the employee’s sex, race, color, religion, gender identity, disability, national origin or sexual orientation. Sometimes, the affirmation that the employee is performing a job at will is included in an employment contract. Other positions instead stipulate the circumstances under which the employee may be terminated in their contracts.

What Goes into an Employment Contract?

An employment contract covers all job-related details and expectations. The following list includes the type of information that is frequently written into employment contracts:

  • The duration of the job;
  • All of the employee’s responsibilities as part of the company;
  • Any grounds for termination the employer may cite;
  • If the position is an at-will position;
  • Any benefits that come with the position, such as healthcare coverage, sick days, and vacation time;
  • Protection of any trade secrets or client lists that come with the position;
  • Any non-compete clauses required by the employer, including those for after the employee has completed his or her job with the company;
  • The preferred or required methods for resolving any disputes that arise between the employee and       employer during his or her time with the company; and
  • The ownership of anything that the employee creates for the company while he or she is employed with it, such as written documents.

Every position is unique, and some employment contracts include only some of these clauses. Others include all of them and even more clauses.

Under the Washington Industrial Safety and Health Act, 49.17 RCW, independent contractors are considered to be employees of the company they’re working with while they are employed and thus entitled to the protections and rights of an employee. The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries is the state-run agency that manages all employment-related laws and regulations within the state.

Employment Attorneys Can Help

If you’ve experienced a breach of an employee contract or feel that you’ve signed an exploitative, discriminatory or otherwise unlawful employment contract, call our team of expert employment attorneys at 206-838-2504 to discuss your case and find out if you have grounds for a lawsuit against your employer. HKM Employment Attorneys LLP works for the working people of Washington state and will give your case the care and attention to detail it deserves.