5 Top Employment Contract Terms Requiring Legal Advice

You’ve received the job offer, and your employer is asking you to sign the offer and make it official.

If you’re like most people, your eyes will scan down to terms about pay, benefits, and compensation, and you might figure that the rest is just legalese.

However, glossing over those terms in your job offer can come back to bite you later on. And while you might be comforted to make the job official with a signature, it’s important to remember that your employer was the one to write this agreement, and most of the terms in there exist for your employer’s benefit – not yours.

Here are some of the most consequential yet misunderstood terms of employment:

1)Termination/Dismissal provision

Understandably, most employees are not thinking about termination when they sign a new job offer – but employers are. Most employment claims (and the most valuable employment claims) relate to termination of employment. But an employment lawyer’s ability to help you can be undermined by the language in your original job offer – even one from years ago. Many employees will simply sign away their termination rights without a second thought.

Courts recognize this power imbalance, resulting in tons of case law where courts have found termination provisions to be unenforceable due to technicalities in the way they are written. As an odd consequence of this, many employment lawsuits are almost entirely dependent on the employer’s technical sloppiness in drafting the employment contract. Don’t let yourself be caught in this position – get legal advice before signing that job offer.

2)Probationary period

Similarly, when a job offer contains a probationary period, employees will often mistakenly assume that they have some measure of job security once that probationary period is complete. But this is not so – you may be entitled to nothing more than one week’s notice of termination – even after you’ve completed your probationary period. It all comes down to – once again – the wording of your contract.

3)Signing bonuses for existing employees

Beware if your employer is asking you to sign a “new” or “updated” employment contract for a position you already have. Your employer is likely asking you to sign away important rights (such as rights upon termination). The “signing bonus” is not an award for your time and inconvenience in reviewing new terms, it is the bare minimum you must receive to make an updated employment contract legally enforceable.

4)Stock options and other vague incentive compensation

Beware if your employer includes vague terms about stock options, bonuses, or other incentive compensation to entice you to accept a job offer. These terms may be so vague as to be legally unenforceable. If you must be satisfied with a vague term when you accept an employment offer, be sure to follow up with your employer to get these promises committed to writing, as quickly and specifically as possible.


In most cases, non-competition agreements (i.e., agreements that prevent you from working with competitors post-employment) are completely unenforceable. The same is often, true of non-solicitation agreements, which may prevent you from soliciting clients, employees, and suppliers to take their business elsewhere following the end of your employment. An enforceable non-solicitation agreement must contain reasonable and clear specifications as to what exactly constitutes a “solicitation”; who you are prohibited from soliciting, and for how long. An employment lawyer can give you a clearer idea of what these obligations will require of you (if anything) in the event your employment comes to an end.

Once again, it is always better to get advice on these agreements before you sign, so that you know exactly what you are agreeing to.

If you aren’t ready to talk to someone yet, you can take a look at the Employment Law page on our website to read more.

If you are dealing with an employment issue such as wrongful dismissal, unfair severance, or workplace harassment, contact the employment lawyers at Share Lawyers. Our 35+ years of experience in long term disability (LTD) law and team of experienced employment lawyers can help you win your case against your employer. We offer free consultations and there are no fees unless you win your case. Join us on Facebook and become a Top Fan for a chance to win each month.

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