You know that your job is always at risk because of “employment at will,” right? The only practical way to obtain job security is through an employment contract.
If you are starting a new position, that is the time to raise the idea of an employment agreement with your prospective employer. At Gardner Employment Law, we have negotiated countless employment contracts. If you need assistance in creating a “safety net” at work, give us a call.
How Do You Secure Job Protection?
In Texas any non-governmental employee without a written employment contract comes under the “at will” doctrine. Even CEO’s are employees. Unless your dad owns the company, the only way to get around the risk of being terminated “at will” is by negotiating an employment contract. Even the most successful people get fired. As we note on our Services page, the simple truth is, if you don’t own the company, your career is at risk.
Executives can and do sue—and win—on breach-of-contract claims when their employment was terminated for reasons other than those enumerated in their agreement, as explained by the Society for Human Resource Management.
You could be suddenly fired even with years of stellar performance. This happened to Bruce Mittman, who is now president, CEO, and founder of the ad agency Mittcom. Earlier in his career, he was VP of several FM radio stations. He had been running these stations for 10 years and made them highly profitable and visible. This all changed when a bigger company acquired his radio stations. The general manager of another branch, despite having worse performance than Mittman, managed to persuade the new president to fire Mittman. Unfortunately, Mittman was not protected by a contract provision.
What Does “Employment At Will” Mean?
At-will employment is a doctrine by which both an employer and employee are free to terminate an employment relationship for any legal reason. This could be a good reason, a bad reason, and sometimes no reason at all. The only condition is that the relationship cannot be terminated for illegal reasons, such as discrimination. A discriminatory reason would be termination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability or age.
“For well over a century, the general rule in this State, as in most American jurisdictions, has been that absent a specific agreement to the contrary, employment may be terminated by the employer or the employee at will, for good cause, bad cause, or no cause at all,” as held by the Texas Supreme Court in Montgomery County Hospital v. Brown. The court explained that to negate employment at-will, an agreement must be very clear and specific. The words must show that the employer unequivocally intended “to be bound not to terminate the employee except under clearly specified circumstances.” And, if the employment lasts for more than a year, the agreement must be in writing to be enforceable.
How Do I Get Job Protection?
To secure an employment agreement, timing is important. The best opportunity to request a written employment contract is when you are negotiating for a new job or a promotion to an important position. You should know effective negotiation tactics. First, ask yourself, “What do I bring to the table?” Know your value and how your qualifications fit the company’s needs. Once you know the answer to this question, you have adequate footing to begin negotiations.
Next, ask yourself, what do I want? Approach your employer with the provisions you want included in the contract. Use a flexible and cooperative tone. Emphasize that such provisions would also benefit the company since you are promising that you won’t leave randomly. As Forbes writes, “You want to ensure that your potential employer always feels like you are creating a win-win situation in your negotiations.” Bottom line, you want to make the employer an offer it can’t refuse.
The Internet contains thousands of books on negotiation strategies, and this blog cannot teach all you should know. It is worth your effort to research and learn about effective negotiations. It is a skill that you can learn.
Make sure you know the legal tools at your disposal. Contracts can be confusing without proper guidance. It is imperative that the terms are clear and adequately protect you. Without clear terms, your job may not be as secure as you thought. In addition, you must know your value and have a negotiation strategy. A savvy lawyer can provide you with both.
At Gardner Employment Law, we are well-versed in contract law and negotiation strategies. We dedicate ourselves to the pursuit of our clients’ job security and benefits. If you need job protection strategies, give us a call today.