Five Questions To Ask Before Signing An Employment Contract

It is always an exciting time when you accept a job offer. Before you are able to break out the champagne, your prospective employer hands you a hefty employment contract – you know that document with a bunch of legalese that you end up skimming through and hastily signing. A few key items that you should take note of before you sign, include the following:

What are the grounds for termination?

This might be the most important item included in an employment contract because it essentially provides reasons as to why your employer can fire you. Grounds for termination include: breach of contract, violating the company’s code of conduct, harassment, etc. If you don’t read this section of the contract carefully, you could be consenting to termination at any time without reason, which is even worse.

What is my compensation?

It is vital to check the salary amount you negotiated is the same in the contract, as well as when and how you will be paid. Other key points that may be included in this section are: bonuses, reimbursement for reasonable expenses (i.e., traveling, taking a client out for dinner, office supplies), health benefits, etc.

Is there a non-compete clause?

Non-compete clauses bring mixed emotions for prospective employees. A non-compete clause allows a company to restrict an employee from entering into or starting a similar profession or trade which competes with the company for  a certain amount of time.   A non-compete clause is included in an employment contract in order to retain top talent and prevent the exploitation of confidential information.  Some non-compete agreements also state that employees are not allowed to “moonlight”; i.e, take on a second job, in addition to their primary employment. A reason why employers forbid this is because it may affect how their employees perform. If your financial situation is dire and you need the extra money, speak to your prospective employer about coming up with a solution.

What are the hours I’m required to work?

“Time of Work” section will give you a specific amount of hours that you should be putting in at work. It is up to your employer’s discretion how many hours you should be working. However, employers must abide by federal and state labor laws.

If I create something on my own time, am I allowed to protect it?

This section of the contract is usually titled ”Proprietary Rights” or “Intellectual Property Rights”. It basically states that anything you create during your employment is owned by the company; you cannot disclose any information of the intellectual property to another person and may not use it outside of your employment.

Before you seal the deal and sign your employment contract, it’s crucial to read through and make sure it is fair and reasonable. The questions listed above serve as a guide. If you are unsure about certain aspects of your contract, speak to an experienced employment attorney to obtain further advice before signing.

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