While many Indiana employees are covered by at-will employment laws, some will still encounter employment contracts. Workers who are laid off, those who are executives, professional workers and others may be presented with contracts to sign either before accepting their jobs or when they are leaving them. Because these written agreements can greatly affect your rights, it is very important for you to get legal advice before you agree to sign them. A professional employment lawyer at Goodin Abernathy may review the agreements with which you have been presented. If there are problematic clauses, he or she may then negotiate with the employer in order to secure more favorable terms.
Severance Packages or Agreements
Professionals and executives are often presented with severance agreements when they are leaving their positions. These agreements may be worth substantial amounts of money, but you should be careful before you sign them. Some employees have severance pay outlined in the company’s policy or pursuant to a contract. If they do, they do not need to sign severance agreements. If one is presented, an attorney may negotiate for a higher amount than the amount to which you are already entitled.
Severance agreements often may also include a provisions calling for the employee to release or waive any potential claims he or she may have against the employer. The waiver of these rights can have a significant impact on the employee. An attorney might negotiate this particular clause to include a provision that the employer should release the claims he or she might have against the employee. If the employer has violated the law, the employee may have some valid grievances against the company. In such a case, the attorney might recommend that the employee forgo signing the agreement and instead pursue the claim against the employer. Your lawyer may also be able to use those violations by the employer to negotiate for a better severance package than what has been offered to you.
Many employees are asked to sign non-compete agreements when they accept new positions. You should be very careful before signing this type of agreement. Non-compete agreements are used to limit your ability to compete directly with the company if you leave. This may include prohibitions from your working within a certain number of miles of the business, working for a competitor or from starting your own business in the same industry. A skilled lawyer, familiar with the laws in this area, may negotiate this type of agreement so that it is not so restrictive that you later find yourself unable to work.
Licensed Professional Agreements
Licensed professionals, such as attorneys, physicians, nurses and others, are often presented with employment contracts. These may outline the responsibilities for payment of malpractice insurance, annual continuing education classes, annual licensing fees and others. A professional employment lawyer may be able to negotiate more favorable terms for you. He or she might also argue against the inclusion of terms that may limit your rights.
Non-disparagement clauses contracts are often found in clauses contained within other severance agreements and other employment contracts. These clauses tell employees that they may not disparage the company. While disparagement is a fairly broad term, one federal court has simply used the definition from the Oxford Dictionary for the word. The U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona held that a non-disparagement agreement was formed when a man pressed “accept” on a website to gain access to marketing materials. When he later criticized the company, it sued, and the court ruled against the man. A lawyer might review this type of clause and negotiate to make it more amenable or to secure a specific definition of what type of disparagement is prohibited.
Educators normally sign teachers’ contracts with the schools for whom they will teach. Like other types of contracts, it is important for educators to understand what they are signing before they do. An employment law attorney may request that his or her client have a clear pathway to tenure, enjoy better pay and other provisions that he or she identifies as problematic.
Breach of Employment Contracts
Even if you are an at-will employee, you may have an employment contract that was formed by the company’s handbook or orally from supervisors. If you are employed pursuant to a contract or if you believe that one was formed, and your employer breached its terms, your attorney may work to help you recover damages for the losses that you have suffered through litigation and negotiation.
Whenever you are presented with a contract of any type by your prospective or current employer, it is very important that you read through it carefully. Do not sign something that you do not understand. You should simply tell the employer that you need some time to review it and then seek out the advice of an experienced employment lawyer from Goodin Abernathy.