The Reality of the Employee Manual & Those Agreements you Signed on Day One of Your New Job
There are many guides and policies you will receive and be asked to sign on day 1 of your new job. They are VERY important. They will control you life if you leave the company. Understand them. Read them. if you can, have a attorney tell you what they mean. you can negotiate some of the terms.
The Employee Manual--What it Really Is.The employee Manual is given to you for several reasons:
(1) Some of the items that relate to Sexual Harassment Policy (EEOC), Pay Policy (DOL), Safety Policy (OSHA), Disability Policy (ADA), Age Policy (ADEA), Environmental Policy (EPA), Discrimination Policy (EEO), ERISA/Retirement Policy, and various State Laws are there because they have to be by law. They are also supposed to be posted "where employees congregate. That's why they are in the "break" room, kitchen, or by the water fountain and in the manual. If you are in a work-at-home, they are supposed to be given to you by email, mail, or internet.
Ever read them. You should. You receive a free course in Employment 101. These affect every aspect of your rights in the workplace.
(2) They are there so if they want to fire you, they can point to the Employee Manual. You were late five times last year. See, there in the manual. You called out sick and were not within the two hour minimum notice time. You did not follow the dress code. (If you work for Walmart as one million people do, they have a point system. Get so many points and you are gone. Like your driver's license.
(3) The employee handbook will probably say something like: "This handbook is NOT an employee contract. It may be changed, revoked or modified at any time with or without your knowledge." The employee manual is enforceable in 30 states. In 20 it is not. In PA by statute it is not a contract. In some states you will find the disclaimer in the front or back. "In the 30 states, statements relative to compensation, benefits, (as mentioned above), In AZ, employers cannot change the manual unless they compensate the employees for the changes. So it is all over the map. Bottom line, read it, but be wary of it. Anything value like,
If the handbook says something like, we will treat everybody fairly, that is vague, and the courts will not enforce. But something like, You can only be terminated for "just cause," will be enforced by the courts. But you will rarely see that. What you will see is, "The employment relationship between employer and employee is "at-will." That means you may resign when ever you feel like it, and we can terminate you whenever we feel like it. What you won't find is that, "we cannot fire you for a discriminatory reason, nor because of FMLA, nor jury duty, not military deployment, nor filing for Workers Compensation claim, nor anything in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 As amended by the Equal Pay Act...or because you are disabled......
Those Agreements you sign when you Join the Company. HAVE AN ATTORNEY LOOK THEM OVER. IT WILL PAYThe Employment Agreement if you have one is absolutely binding. You sign it, you will live by it. It will have a lot of clauses. READ THEM. If you are high enough up in the company, you may be able to negotiate some of the terms. If you don't try you will never get them. Some will be draconian. Just for negotiating if you leave. They know they are illegal, but many employees will not hire a lawyer and lose 10 times more than what the attorney would have cost.
The Confidentiality agreement or clause.
This is a fair concept. The company will trust you with it's secrets and yo promise even if you leave you will not disclose them. Thus they are also called Non-Disclosure Agreement. NDA (Just like Trumps two "friends" signed.) Legal bills over those are approaching $500,000. Read it careful. Make sure they can't blame you for something beyond your control.
The Non-Compete Agreement or clause. This is the BIGGIE. HAVE AN ATTORNEY LOOK IT OVER. MONEY WELL SPENT.
You are giving you life away. At least part of it. If you sign this you will not be able to work for a certain amount of time, for a certain geographic region, and not work for any of your current company's competitors. This is where a lawyer comes in and is important. They will try and make it 5 years, 500 mile radius, and make it enforceable if they fire you. I recommend making it no more than 2 years, 5 to 40 miles depending on what type of work you do, and if they fire you it is not enforceable. In California, they are almost outlawed. In NY they are hard to enforce, but the rest of the country is all over the map again. They are slowly going out of favor except where the employer, spent a lot of money on training or loaned the employee money that was forgiven each month by a certain percentage, or the employee might be using trade secrets or techniques.
The none-solicitation clause simply says if you leave you will note recruit employees to leave. That is reasonable. It will have a time limit. Two years is a ball park reasonable number, depending on the type of work and state you are in.
Conclusion and ClosingDo not sign the documents the first day. Take them home. Previously have an attorney be available that night to look them over. Fully understand what you are signing and giving up. Any changes if you do not get them before you sign, you will never get them. Then again if you don't sign them, they may not hire you. You some what if in the agreements. If the company is purchased, then..... if the company re-organizes or is absorbed by the parent company then....... If the company is in bankruptcy then......... if the company moves x miles away, then .........
Get it now, or you won't get it ever.... Good Luck. And hourly paid employees seldom have to sign non-compete clauses or Agreements. If they ask you to, as them why.... Some hospital try to get nurses to sign non-competes. Give me a break. There is no hardship to the employer if Nurse Ratchet goes to work for a competitor.