What to Consider Before Signing an Employment Contract

Employers in the Washington, D.C., area operate in one of the nation’s most competitive job markets. Attracting qualified candidates will usually require offering a comprehensive benefits package as well as an attractive salary. Many of the benefits offered by employers must comply with standards outlined in the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, but companies also consider industry standards and their current and future financial obligations when deciding what to offer their employees. This means that employment contracts are often complex documents that can be difficult to understand.

Employee benefit plans sponsored by employers should, ideally, reward and motivate employees while complying with ERISA. As an employee, you will be entitled to receive certain plan documents upon becoming eligible to participate in the sponsored plans. When negotiating your employment contract, make sure you have your employer add those eligibility dates in your agreement so that you know when to expect your plan documents. Also, ask that your employment contract detail who is the appropriate contact regarding your employee benefits and reflect any intranet sites where documents and forms are located.  Employers sponsoring ERISA benefit plans have a responsibility to tell you the truth about your benefits, so make sure you document your requests and the responses. The employer typically is not the fiduciary, so you may be directed to the appropriate fiduciary responsible for the benefit plans. The fiduciary also must be truthful and provide you a complete response to your questions.

Your employment contract should be drafted with great care to ensure that it reflects all that you need to know about your employee benefits.  Both executives and non-executives should take care to understand the types of benefits offered and when you will become eligible for them. If you are choosing between several job offers or deciding whether or not to sign a new employment contract, legal insight from an attorney experienced in this area could be very helpful.

Attorneys could help you to review and negotiate compensation and severance packages, bonus plans, and restrictive covenants such a non-compete and non-solicitation clauses. An experienced attorney could also advocate on your behalf at the negotiating table or in court if you are wrongfully terminated, retaliated against by your employer, or subjected to discrimination or harassment in the workplace.

Poor career decisions can cast a long shadow, which is why it is wise to prepare as thoroughly as possible before making them. Clark Law Group, PLLC, has been helping executives in various industries to deal with employment and benefits matters before, during, and following the hiring process for two decades. If you are faced with an important decision that could have a profound impact on your career trajectory and would like to learn more about the legal issues involved, please visit our page dealing with ERISA benefits for more information.

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