An employment contract is a document that you and your employer sign and that dictates the terms of your professional relationship. Most employees in the United States do not work under an employment contract but in some instances it makes sense. If you signed a contract at the beginning of employment, you are under contract. If you didn’t then you are not. You may ask for a copy of your contract at any time and your employer is required to give one to you.
What’s included in an employment contract?
A good contract will spell out exactly what you are expected to do as well as your salary. A good contract will also state the following:
- The term of employment (A period of months or years, until the completion of a project, or indefinitely)
- The responsibilities of the employee
- Benefits such as health, life or disability insurance or retirement accounts
- Vacation and sick day policies
- Reasons and grounds for termination
- Covenants not to compete that will limit the employee’s employment opportunities if he or she is terminated or otherwise leaves the company
- Nondisclosure agreements relating to your company’s trade secrets or client lists
- An ownership agreement stating that all materials produced by the employee during his employment are owned by the company
- Assignment clauses stating that any patents procured by the employee during his employment must be assigned to the company
- A method for resolving disputes relating to employment
Breach of contract and wrongful termination
Breach of contract can happen when either you or your employer breaks one of the terms on your contract, such as your employer doesn’t pay you your agreed upon wages or you don’t work your agreed upon hours. If your employer fires you before your contract is up and the termination breaches your contract, this is considered wrongful termination. In these cases you may be able to take legal action on your employer.