Are you a Florida business owner considering whether you need an Employment Agreement? Our experienced contract and business law attorneys at Rak Law Firm can help by understanding your business needs and crafting the perfect employment agreement tailored to your business.
Creating the perfect employment agreement can seem like a daunting task – considering all that is involved and what is at stake. We understand that as a business owner you want to protect your business while also creating a stable and risk adverse environment. There are many benefits to an employee agreement that make having one advantageous for a Florida business owner.
What Is an Employment Agreement?
An employment agreement is an agreement between an employer and employee outlining the terms and conditions of the working relationship. This may include salary/wages, part-time v. full-time employment terms, paid time off, termination conditions etc.
An employee agreement is not always necessary depending on the business, you should contact an attorney to review your business structure and advise as to its needs.
Why Should I Have an Employment Agreement as an Employer?
An employment agreement can have many benefits to the employer, including but not limited to:
- Terms and conditions: it is important to protect your business by creating terms and conditions such as non-compete agreements, employee non-solicitation, and Confidentiality agreements.
- Employee expectations: establishing rules and expectations for the employees of your business will give the employee a foundation for success and also allows you as the employer the ability to reference employee had notice to perform to a standard.
- Legal compliance: compliance with labor laws by including the specific hours to be worked and the wage in which to be earned. You may also include provisions relating to overtime pay and any benefits offered to employees.
Are Employment Agreements Legally Enforceable Contracts?
Short answer – It depends.
Florida courts have been reluctant to find that provisions within an employee handbook or policies and procedures agreements rise to the level of enforceable contract rights. They have; however, acknowledged it is possible for such handbooks or agreements to create enforceable rights if there is “language in the employee manual expressly providing that the manual constitutes a separate employment agreement” or the employer-employees have reached a mutual agreement to this effect. Quaker Oats Co. v. Jewell, 818 So. 2d 574 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2002).
In Walton v. Health Care Dist. of Palm Beach Cty, the employee Walton, was given an employee agreement upon hiring by the hospital in which he worked as a nurse. During the course of litigation, he did not indicate that there was express language in his employee agreement or handbook that would make the handbook a separate employment agreement with termination appropriate only upon its conditions stated. Walton v. Health Care Dist. of Palm Beach Cty., 862 So. 2d 852 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2003).
In summary, the employment agreement may not be enforceable unless you make it as such using specific language that binds the two parties to the contract.
Why Should I Have an Employee Agreement?
Employment agreements provide employers with protection and benefits.
An attorney may draft a Florida employee agreement in a way that deliberately protects the business’ interests and helps alleviate the potential for liability.
Generally in Florida, the employment relationship is considered at-will. If an employment agreement is considered “at-will,” it means that both the employer and the employee can end the employment period at any time without notice.
If an employer decides to have an employment agreement, they can define what type of relationship they want with their employee(s) such as at-will. The at-will employment relationship can be altered or changed if they have it documented in writing in their employment agreement. Does a business owner need an attorney to draft their employment agreement? No, but employers must use caution and review accordingly so that nothing within the agreement nullifies the at-will relationship, or relationship type selected. This is one of the many reasons why hiring an attorney to review your drafted agreement or draft the agreement for you is so highly encouraged.
What Should I Include in My Employment Agreement?
Consider including the following provisions when drafting your own employment agreement:
- Employee job responsibilities: any responsibilities you would assign to employee from employer
- Confidentiality and trade secret protection: you may want to include a confidentiality agreement or provision and non-disclosure agreement or provision within your employment agreement. You may also want to include a non-complete agreement or non-solicitation agreement or provision within same.
- Use and return of company property: include a provision(s) that lists out what items or equipment are being given to employee and when they were given.
- At-Will provisions: if you want your employment relationship to be an at-will relationship, you may want to add specific language designating it as such within an employment agreement.
Can an Employer Sue an Employee?
Sort answer – yes!
Although it is more common for an employee to sue its employer, there may be legal remedies available to employers suing employees depending on the case type and circumstances.
Common reasons employer sue employees:
- Property theft
- Breach of contract such as a non-compete agreement or non-disclosure agreement
Can I Sue My Employee Over Breach of Employment Agreement?
Short answer – it depends.
To sue for breach of contract, the employer must show:
- That there was a contract between the employer and employee AND
- That the employee breached the contract It depends because employment agreements are not always enforceable contracts. You have to add specific language to your agreement in order to make it a legally binding and enforceable contract between the parties, this is why we highly encourage you to seek legal advice when drafting these agreements.
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