So, after a long search to find your next job, going through a series of interviews, and sending thank-you notes to all your interviewers, you’ve finally heard back from your dream company’s hiring manager.
Your long-awaited job offer has landed in your inbox. Now, all you need to do to seal the deal is sign on the dotted line. But wait a minute…
Before you get swept away by gratitude and excitement and mindlessly accept the offer, you should take another look at that employment contract. Or better still, get an employment lawyer to go through it for you.
Unless you are extremely familiar with labor and non-compete agreement laws, you might not spot something that will leave you in a serious bind down the road. Many people sign up for obligations they didn’t realize at the time or are even prevented from working in their industry later on.
So before you sign that employment offer, here are the red flags you need to watch out for.
Look Out for Restrictive Covenants
One of the biggest reasons to hire an employment lawyer to review your new employment contract is to catch any restrictive covenants. It’s not unusual for employers to insert restrictive clauses into employment contracts to prevent employees from taking specific actions.
These clauses don’t just restrict employees while the contract is in effect – they are so far-reaching that they can even affect employees long after the contract has ended.
While employers use several restrictive covenants, the non-compete clause is the most common.
A non-compete clause can restrict an employee from working in the same industry or field they have been employed in – even after the contract is terminated. If your employment contract contains a non-compete clause, you must ensure that you’re adequately compensated for it.
Non-compete clauses (also known as ‘restraint of trade‘) can specify that you may not work for a similar company for a certain amount of time after your employment ends. This restrictive clause could interfere with your livelihood after leaving the company, so beware.
Another restrictive covenant commonly inserted into employment agreements is a non-solicitation agreement.
Non-solicitation agreements restrict employees from leaving the company and taking their clients with them – whether they made first contact with these clients or not. In many cases, non-solicitation clauses also extend to other employees, meaning that employees may not leave the company and form their own business together.
Watch Out for Illegal Demands
Another reason to hire a qualified employment lawyer to look at your new employment contract is to spot any unlawful demands.
Employers don’t usually do this intentionally or maliciously – they are often unaware that the clauses they insert into an employment contract are illegal. For instance, some non-compete agreements would never stand up in court, but employers write them into the contract anyway.
Ideally, employers would hire their own employment lawyer to write up their employment contracts and ensure everything is above-board, but this is not always the case. When it comes to startups and small businesses, employers often don’t have their own lawyers.