In her 24 years as an aggressive advocate and skilled litigator, Arcangela Mazzariello, partner at SeiferFlatow and head of the litigation department, has encountered many unfortunate situations that could have been avoided if her clients had been more aware of their rights. In the “Things That Make Arc Bark” blog series, Arc offers solid advice for all employees.
Did you read the entire employment agreement before you signed it? Did you know that many employment agreements have restrictive covenants like non-compete and non-solicitation clauses? Most agreements also say that you have the opportunity to let your attorney review the agreement before you sign it. However, it is often the case that employees do not know about these things because they don’t fully read the agreement before signing.
Why You Should Have Your Attorney Review Your Employment Agreement
If you were promised a certain job title, job description, stock options based on performance, or other terms discussed before the job offer was made, they should be outlined in your employment agreement. Your attorney can make sure these terms are fair and what was agreed upon initially. Should you sign the agreement before ensuring the terms, there’s no guarantee you will get them.
Non-Compete and Non-Solicitation Agreements
A non-compete limits the employee’s ability to compete with the employer for a set period of time after an employee exits the company. Similarly, a non-solicitation agreement restricts an employee’s ability to solicit an employer’s customers for a set period of time after employment ends.
Both of these covenants are not favored in most states, but are still alive and well in North Carolina. Your attorney can review these agreements to ensure they are also fair and within reason. For example, restricting an employee from working for a competitor for one year is reasonable, however, restricting them from working anywhere in the world is not. Before you sign, let your attorney review your agreement for non-compete and non-solicitation clauses.
Leaving Your Job or Termination
If your new employer requires extended notice for you to leave the company, that information will be in the employment agreement. It will also outline for termination at will (termination without cause, which is legal in North Carolina) or if you can only be fired for a specific reason, like failing to show up, not performing your duties, inappropriate behavior, etc.
Did you know that was in your employment agreement?
When I am contacted by a client for a business-related issue, I will review the employment agreement and usually end up asking my client, “Did you know this was in the agreement?” Often their answer is, “I didn’t see that part,” or “I didn’t read it.” They even say they did see it but didn’t care until it actually affected them.
Before you sign anything, let an attorney review the agreement. You have a lot more power negotiating on the front end, before you sign, when you are in the “honeymoon” phase of your relationship with your employer. Negotiating anything during the “divorce” phase is a lot more difficult, for you and for your attorney.