New York is an at-will employment state meaning that an employer has a right to terminate an employee for more or less any reason at all, at any time, so long as it is not rooted in a discriminatory reason. However, an employment contract actually may allow you to set the terms of your employment and termination should that become an issue. The New York employment contract attorneys of Brown Kwon & Lam explain.
New York Employment Contracts: What’s Included
Though New York is an at-will employment state, that does not mean you do not have any protections. In fact, your offer letter and employment contract will actually be beneficial to both you and your employer for any future changes and/or challenges that may occur.
Within your New York employment contract, you will want to make sure that not only it is a tangible document, but that it includes specific terms and conditions of employment to ensure that your rights are not infringed upon and that if your employer does not abide by the terms and conditions, you have a legal guide to follow.
Within a New York employment contract, you will want to ensure that the following elements are included and clear:
- Employee’s title, duties, and responsibilities
- Compensation including how you will be paid, any bonuses, etc.
- Availability/participation in corporate plans
- Benefits and when they will take effect including medical/dental/vision, disability, life insurance, and retirement benefits
- Grounds for termination and severance benefits due if terminated
- Requirements of non-compete agreements, non-solicitation, and nondisclosure agreements
If you are in a union, you will also need a collective bargaining agreement (CBA). A CBA does much of the same as a traditional employment contract but offers additional protections under the union.
What documents are considered an employment contract?
While having a tangible contract is always the best option, there are other documents and methods of communication that may constitute a legally binding employment contract.
If a conversation, email, text message, etc. contains relevant language and benefits, it can become a legally binding contract in the court’s eyes. This may include what starts as an in-person exchange but continues to email where you list what you need, your employer counteroffers, etc.
So long as the four elements of an employment contract exist, (offer, acceptance, consideration, and intention), the email/communication may be found to be a legally binding contract.
What happens if my employer does not follow the terms of my New York employment contract?
So long as the terms and conditions of your New York employment contract clearly list the application of termination, benefits, etc., any wrongdoing by your employer will likely be able to be fought.
However, sometimes the wording of an employment contract can make it difficult to clearly outline the intent of the terms. But when your employer takes advantage of you or does explicitly disobey the terms and conditions of the employment contract, you can take legal action.
In order to protect yourself from such incidents, it’s important to ask questions when it comes to the negotiation of the contract:
- Is this a position with a time limit of employment?
- What are the termination conditions in place?
- Are there any alternative dispute resolution actions in place which may take away the rights to take violations to court?
These questions may not seem important when you are newly employed, but you should know the terms because they can save you from legal battles in the future.
Employment Contract Violations
While it’s important to know your rights should your employer attempt to stray from the employment contract, it’s also equally important to know the common signs of contract violations.
Whenever an employer violates an employment contract resulting in an employee suffering serious financial harm, a breach of contract may have occurred. Examples of breach of contract include:
- Failing to fully compensate the employee as agreed upon within the employment contract
- Attempting to alter the terms of the agreement
- Terminating the employee for reasons outside of the employment contract
Should a breach of contract occur, know that you have rights.
Negotiating New York Employment Contracts
While you may be concerned about the legality of your employment contract, you also should be mindful of the negotiable terms and conditions included. Whether you are a high-level CEO or entry-level position, there is nothing wrong with knowing your worth and fighting for just compensation and benefits.
Common terms to be negotiated include:
- Compensation (salary, commissions, and bonuses)
- Benefits (health coverage, paid time off, stock options, retirement funds, etc.)
- Stock in the company (depending on position/level)
- Terms of the position (including how performance will be evaluated)
- Grounds for termination
- Nondisclosure agreements
- Noncompete agreements
- Any options for renewal
- Severance agreements
And, if you have concerns about the terms of your employment contract, you are permitted to have it reviewed by a lawyer prior to agreeing.
New York Employment Contracts: Brown Kwon & Lam
Starting a new job can be exciting and stressful at the same time. To avoid complications in the future, let the New York employment contract attorneys review the terms and conditions of your hiring and potential termination to protect you now and in the future. Contact us today for a free consultation.