The lawyers hired by an employer are there to protect the company’s legal rights – not the employee’s. When they draft contracts, they draft them for the benefit of the employer. This means that an employment contract presented to a prospective employee is already working against their legal interests. Sometimes this is obvious in the major terms of employment (such as pay and benefits). Other times it is far more subtle. Even the most commonplace language can have a legal effect. The only way to adequately protect your legal rights against this inherent bias is to have the contract reviewed by a lawyer who is actually on your side.
Some employers ask employees to sign confidentiality or anti-disparagement clauses. These terms protect an employer’s legal interests, but they also have the effect of restricting your free speech. Often these terms continue to restrict an employee’s speech even after they have left the job. It is very important to understand how these clauses will restrict you and for how long you will be restricted. A reasonable amount of restraint might be part of your job (especially if you will be handling confidential client data or trade secrets). You should not, however, agree to these terms until you have obtained legal advice from your own lawyer.
An employment contract affects the amount of job security you have in several different ways. First, it defines the length of time you will be employed. Second, it defines the circumstances in which the company could terminate your employment. The more ambiguous these terms are, the less job security you will have. The other terms and conditions defined in the employment agreement will also determine how much job security your contract is actually providing you. Remember, it has been drafted by the company’s lawyers, so it is not designed to give you job security.
There are many ways in which an employment contract affects your legal rights. Some of these are obvious: for example, your right to be paid an agreed salary, or your right to not be fired within the contract period. But an employment contract could also affect your legal rights in less obvious ways. Many employers in the Silicon Valley area want to retain intellectual property rights.
While an employer is entitled to own the IP you develop on company time and with company resources, this does not mean that your employer owns all the ideas you will ever develop. It is important to let your lawyer review the proposed employment contract to be sure that your IP rights are being protected, as well. The only way to know what your legal rights are and how they will be affected by the contract is to consult with a lawyer who is actually on your side.
The experienced Bay Area employment lawyers at Minnis & Smallets have years of experience in protecting California workers. Contact us today to schedule your consultation with a San Francisco employment law attorney.
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