Employment Contracts

New employment opportunities are significant milestones in an employee’s career journey. They bring the prospect of greater challenges, further advancement, and increased compensation. But with opportunity comes uncertainty. The relationship between a company and a candidate to whom they make an offer is one that begins with optimism and enthusiasm, but there is never a guarantee that this spirit will endure in perpetuity. Circumstances can change, relationships may sour, and factors beyond an employee’s control could bring his or her role with a company to an abrupt or unwelcome end.

Unfortunately, too many executives and other high-level employees – brilliant and as business-savvy as they may be – fail to prepare for these very real possibilities. They may begin a new position without an employment contract which defines the terms of their employment and outlines each party’s rights, responsibilities, and remedies. They might be handed a lengthy and detailed employment contract skewed heavily in the company’s favor, and instead of reading it or consulting with a lawyer, turn to the last page and sign it.

Either way, if an employee enters into a new employment relationship without a well-crafted and thoroughly reviewed employment contract, the employee could unknowingly and unnecessarily be putting his or her career, livelihood, and future at risk.

By retaining an employment contract law firm to advise and protect an employee at this juncture, the employee is not mucking up the works – he or she is leveling the playing field.

At-Will Means At-Risk

In the absence of an agreement, employment in Rhode Island is considered “at-will.” This generally means that either the employer or the employee may terminate the employment relationship at any time. An employer may do so for any reason or no reason at all, so long as the employer’s actions are not prohibited by state or federal law, such as laws prohibiting discrimination.

This means an employee could lose everything because of someone else’s whim. An employee could find himself or herself polishing their resume despite exceptional performance just for rubbing a colleague or superior the wrong way. There is no cause of action for “unfairness” in an employment relationship, and “wrongful termination” does not apply if an employer simply does not like an employee’s personality or attitude. Without an employment contract (or collective bargaining agreement) that says otherwise, an employee has no entitlement to severance pay, notice, or any other consideration not required by law.

Covering All The Bases

The purpose of a comprehensive employment agreement is to define and clarify the relationship in a way that benefits both sides. It will set forth each party’s expectations during the course of the employment, as well as expectations about how and why the employment may end, including each party’s rights in such an event. All of this reduces the chances of misunderstandings and disagreements that can quickly metastasize into conflict and litigation.

We help our clients ensure that proposed employment agreements are fair and cover all salient issues, including:

If you or someone you know needs assistance drafting or reviewing an employment contract, please contact us to discuss your matter.

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