May 31 2010
There are federal employment laws which impact your executive career. When professionals and executives transition in or out of a company, there is a myriad of issues to consider. Compensation, severance, benefits, retirement accounts, non-compete clauses, discrimination, and other legal rights are being negotiated and can dramatically affect your career.
Human Resources will push you to accept an employment agreement right away. Don’t do it as no employment situation is ‘take it or leave it’. Tell them you need to think this situation over. Companies will not withdraw their executive employment offers—they’ve already decided they need and want you! Most people, even Senior Executives, don't realize they can negotiate for extended pay, more benefits and other terms of their employment which will protect their career and financial future.
Employees are too quick to sign these agreements focusing primarily on the salary or severance pay while overlooking key areas of their packages. Every employment situation is unique, but no situation is “take it or leave it”. The following questions are the ones frequently asked regarding employment agreements and job offers:
- (1) I don’t think I can negotiate the job offer I received because the company has established salary ranges, fixed benefits, certain incentives/perks, and I may lose the offer, right?
Wrong! No employment offer is a “take it or leave it” situation. All offers can and should be negotiated. Your new employer EXPECTS you to negotiate the offer, even after they tell you it’s the best they can do. Don’t leave dollars, benefits, and perks off the table.
- (2) Should I sign a non-competition clause, arbitration agreement, confidentiality clause, and/or other restrictive covenants in my employment application or agreement?
Think twice before signing anything! In many states, any agreement an employee signs is not valid unless the employer provides something to the employee to enter into the agreement. For example, reasonable restrictions on your ability to work in a business that competes with your former employer are usually lawful. Whether the agreement is deemed reasonable ordinarily depends on the duration of the restriction; its geographic limits; and the activity prohibited. Interpretations of law vary widely between states and countries. It is best to determine whether the restrictions placed on you are legal.
Most companies will advise you to consult with an attorney and have the attorney review the Employment Agreement with restrictive covenants prior to signing it. This is for your protection, as you may not understand or even see the hidden restrictive covenants within the employment agreement. An experienced Employment Attorney with a Human Resources background is best qualified to review a separation/release agreement, not your family or business contracts attorney.
When being hired, people don't realize that they can and should negotiate the terms of their employment. Many times, people simply feel lucky just to have landed the job and don't think it's their place to ask for more. Whether it's an employment offer, severance agreement or a buyout offer, it's never a take-it-or-leave-it situation. Every contract is negotiable!
BlueSteps Member Guest Writer
Kirk Nemer, J.D., SPHR, is an an employment attorney and a human resources expert. After 20 years as a Corporate Counsel and Vice President of Human Resources for Fortune 500 and Global corporations, he has negotiated hundreds of employment agreements, severance agreements, and packages for executives. Contact Kirk through LinkedIn.
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