Employment Offers and Contracts
Created by FindLaw's team of legal writers and editors | Last reviewed June 20, 2016
After applying and interviewing for a job, hopefully the next step for anyone looking for work will be a job offer. Still, this isn't always the end of the line in the hiring process. Even in desperate economic times, not every job offer is worth pursuing, you should always understand everything being offered. Learn about what legal questions may come along with a job offer, including information on how to go about follow-up negotiations, employment contracts and what they may contain, and other forms such as arbitration agreements that have become common in many workplaces. This small preparation might make your next job much better than your last one.
Negotiating a Job Offer
There are a number of aspects of employment worth considering and discussing with a putative employer before finalizing an agreement to take a job. Firstly, requesting an offer in writing can help establish the terms and conditions of the job. The job title should accurately reflect both parties' understanding of the role and responsibility of the position. It should also indicate how your position fits into the larger organization.
Salary and benefits should be clearly indicated. Ensure that there is mutual agreement about any bonus pay, how it is calculated, and how it is paid. Discretionary bonus payouts should be disfavored and some clear indication of the amount should appear in the employment agreement. Likewise, the availability of vacation days or other benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, family and medical leave benefits, and others should be clearly established in the employment agreement.
Finally, terms relating to termination should be clear. Severance policies, termination policies, and other career decisions relating to how a job will be terminated may not be the first concern when starting a new job, but can seriously impact your rights if the job should ever come to an end.
Some job contracts include clauses intended to prevent competition between the employer and employee once the employer/employee relationship has ended. Courts generally dislike non-compete clauses, but employers are often eager to have their protection. As a result some narrow rules regarding on-competition clauses have been developed.
To be enforced, a non-compete agreement should be supported by consideration at the time of signing, protect a legitimate business interest of the employer, and be reasonable in scope, geography, and time.
Pre-Employment Background Checks
Employers like to have as much information as possible when deciding to hire an applicant. Background checks of various kinds are increasingly common. However, there are some kinds of information an employer cannot use in making an employment decision. Some kinds of records may be considered private under state or federal law and cannot be factored into the decision to hire someone, even, in some cases, where the information is publicly available.
Educational records are typically available and considered relevant in hiring, but criminal records may or may not be considered depending on state laws. Some permit access to criminal records only with the applicant's consent, other do not. Military and Medical records are both considered confidential. Medical records may only be requested when relevant to the job. Workers compensation records may only be used if relevant to the job. Bankruptcy records, despite being publicly available, cannot be factored into a hiring decision.
Records that are commonly accessed in a pre-employment background check include credit reports, driving records, court records, property ownership records, personal references, drug tests, your social security number, state licensing records, past employers, and any listing on sex offender registries. Credit checks are forbidden in some states unless the employer can show its relevance to the job.
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