Unfortunately, too many executives and other high-level employees – brilliant and as business-savvy as they may be – fail to prepare for these very real possibilities.
They may begin a new position without an employment contract which defines the terms of their employment and outlines each party’s rights, responsibilities, and remedies. They might be handed a lengthy and detailed employment contract skewed heavily in the company’s favor, and instead of reading it or consulting with a lawyer, turn to the last page and sign it.
Either way, if you enter into a new employment relationship without a well-crafted and thoroughly reviewed employment contract, you could unknowingly and unnecessarily be putting your career, livelihood, and future at risk.
At Siegel & Dolan, Ltd. our employment contract attorneys leverage over 70 years of combined experience to review, negotiate, and craft employment agreements that allow c-suite executives to seize promising opportunities with confidence and security. We regularly advise individuals regarding their employment contract rights – before, during, and following their employment.
We understand the apprehension that many have at the prospect of getting a lawyer involved at the start of a new employment relationship. No one wants to imply that they don’t trust their new colleagues, put them off with requests or demands, or have lawyers turn a simple agreement into a voluminous contract.
But the reality is that companies who hire high-level employees without a signed agreement hold all the cards. If your prospective employer does present you with a proposed agreement, you can be assured that the document was prepared by an attorney who was looking out for the company’s best interests only.
By retaining an employment contract law firm to advise and protect you at this juncture, you are not mucking up the works – you are leveling the playing field.
In the absence of an agreement, employment in Illinois is considered “at-will.” This generally means that either the employer or the employee may terminate the employment relationship at any time. An employer may do so for any reason or no reason at all, so long as the employer’s actions are not prohibited by state or federal law, such as laws prohibiting discrimination based on the employee’s membership in a protected class, or prohibiting retaliation for the employee’s engagement in protected activity.
Think about that.
You could lose everything because of someone else’s whim. You can find yourself polishing your resume despite exceptional performance just for rubbing a colleague or superior the wrong way. False or unjustified representations about your work or your conduct may lead to your termination – and there will be nothing you can do about it.
There is no cause of action for “unfairness” in an employment relationship, and “wrongful termination” doesn’t apply if an employer simply doesn’t like the cut of your jib anymore. Without an employment contract (or collective bargaining agreement) that says otherwise, you have no entitlement to severance pay, notice, or any other consideration not required by law.
The purpose of a comprehensive employment agreement is to define and clarify the relationship in a way that benefits both sides. It will set forth each party’s expectations during the course of the employment, as well as expectations about how and why the employment may end, including each party’s rights in such an event. All of this reduces the chances of misunderstandings and disagreements that can quickly metastasize into conflict and litigation.
We help our clients ensure that proposed employment agreements are fair and cover all salient issues, including:
- Compensation, including base salary, compensation increases, bonus criteria and schedules, expense reimbursement, relocation costs, and equity opportunities;
- Benefits, including health, life, and long-term disability insurance, deferred compensation, and supplemental executive retirement plan information;
- Confidentiality restrictions
- Duration of employment term;
- Job duties, responsibilities, and expectations;
- Termination of employment, including defining “termination for cause,” internal and administrative recourse, and notice requirements;
- Severance packages and “golden parachutes”;
- Remedies upon termination, including required arbitration or mediation of disputes, recoverable damages, governing law, and designated jurisdiction(s);
- Limitations on post-employment competition or solicitation.