Executive and Professional Employees
September 13, 2019
Executive and Professional Employees
Executive-level employees face unique legal issues throughout their careers as compared to other types of employees. Yes, I am talking to you C-Suite employees, CEOs, CFOs, COOs, CIOs, etc. I am also talking to you GMs, VPs, Senior Management, and Professionals. Because you are viewed as part of the “haves” rather than the “have nots,” often your employment law needs are deemed less important, or less popular.
While it’s true that you may not be struggling to put food on the table, that does not mean that you do not face real legal issues in your employment. You need an attorney that understands what you face. I do.
You often face unique legal issues from well before you start your employment with a company. A typical employee looks for a job on Monster.com or Indeed.com and then could start the same day. Not so for you.
Your job opportunities are narrow and your reputation is key in getting your foot in the door. The slightest negativity surrounding your name could be the difference of getting a job or not. That is why we strongly defend people like you against any form of defamation or slander.
Many of you also work with recruiters on a regular basis to find the right opportunities that fit your skillset. This is often the first “contract” that you sign even prior to any employment contract. These contracts vary and can be helpful or harmful to you as you move forward searching for the right fit. Many attorneys do not understand the nuances of working with recruiters. I do.
Whether you engage a recruiter or not, you will interview for available positions. This is not a one-sided interview, but rather a chance for both sides to see if there is an appropriate fit, with skills, with personality and with industry knowledge.
In order to really interview a person like you, the company often must disclose proprietary and/or confidential information. This will require that you sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) during the interview process. It is important that these NDAs not be too broad so as to harm future or simultaneous opportunities that you may have. Many attorneys have not worked with NDAs used in situations like yours. I have.
As the interview process moves forward, you will begin discussing compensation packages. Unlike an average employee who gets paid hourly and maybe has some health benefits, your compensation may include, salary, signing bonus, performance bonuses, ramp-up provisions, perks, vacation pay, non-qualified deferred compensation plans, allowances, stock options, restricted stock options, discounted stock options, gross-ups, golden parachutes, pay on termination/separation, etc.
Two things are extremely important here. First, any compensation offered to you must be in writing. Do not rely on a handshake, especially when you will already be signing an employment agreement. Second, makes sure the compensation terms are measurable. Because most employment agreements do not contain these types of compensation terms, most attorneys are not familiar with them. I am.
*Not every employee in your situation is offered a wide range of compensation terms. This depends on the size of the company, profitability, and various other factors outside of your control. So even if the compensation section does not apply to you, the rest of this article still does.
Other than just the compensation terms in your contract, there are various other terms that should be strictly reviewed. Some examples of these include: job duties descriptions, non-compete provisions, non-solicitation provisions, anti-piracy provisions, confidentiality provisions, work-for-hire provisions, discipline, termination, repayment provisions, etc.
If you fail to scrutinize and fully understand and negotiate these terms from the beginning, then they will surely cause you problems later.
Once you have started your employment with a company, there are usually big adjustments that take place. You spend long hours each week to ensure the success of the company and you implement the changes that you deem proper. But with change always comes backlash. Sometimes it comes from subordinates, sometimes peers, and other times (worst of all) from superiors or investors. Conflict often creates make it or break it moments in your job.
While you do not have specific legal documents to review, you need legal counsel on how to resolve these issues from someone familiar with these circumstances to assist you. I am.
Because of the extremely long hours and high-stress work environments that you are placed in, it is not uncommon for people in your position to suffer physical or mental health setbacks. While these are often cured by taking a vacation or short leave, other times they are not. Because you fear breaching your employment contract and/or losing your job, people in your situation often ignore the problem until it is too late.
While it is taboo to talk about health, especially mental health, it is not anything to laugh about. The old saying “if you don’t have your health, then you don’t have anything” is true. Fortunately, the Americans with Disabilities Act and potentially the Family Medical Leave Act addresses this for your employment situations.
Rather than spiral out of control, take some time to recover your physical and mental health. In the long term, that benefits you and the company. To make sure you are following a legally protected course, you need the assistance of legal counsel who can help you resolve these issues. I can.
While it is unfortunate, some companies knowingly or unknowingly discriminate against its people in your position. Specific to you, the most common forms of discrimination is gender (pay discrimination) and age.
The data does not lie. Be conscious of this during your employment. If you see something, say something. People in your situation are often not sure what to do. During this time it is critical to meet with legal counsel to assist you with how to proceed.
Remember, just because you go speak with an attorney does not mean that your employer will get a demand letter from that attorney. In many of these instances, you simply need an attorney who is familiar with these circumstances to work behind the scenes and provide you counsel on how you can best proceed. I can.
Contracts can either have an end date or both parties may desire to change the terms of the contract. This is time to renegotiate your contract. Just because you have established a friendly relationship with the company at this time does not mean you should be any less vigilant in your efforts to protect yourself. In fact, renegotiations is usually where companies insert additional favorable terms for themselves.
Do not get caught off guard. Make sure that the contract is thoroughly reviewed by your attorney familiar with these circumstances to assist you.
At times, the employment relationship ends. While it may be amicable, often it is not. This can be very upsetting. At this point, it is critical to look back to the contract to see what, if any, termination provisions were included.
It is also important to review what contractual restrictions exist with regard to your ability to find new employment. These are critical times to include your attorney assist you in a review of the contract and make sure you again understand what options you have available to you.
At the time of termination or shortly thereafter, the company may decide to offer you a severance. These are also called release agreements. That is because the primary purpose of severance is not to give you money, it is to provide the company with a broad and all-inclusive release of any claims that you may have against them. It is also sometimes a place where companies insert non-compete agreements if they failed to do it in their initial contract. Just like your initial contract, this is a time for negotiation.
If you are unaware of potential claims you may have against the company, then the value of your severance is likely to be low. However, if you have an understanding of claims that you have against the company, then you have leverage to negotiate a better severance. It is also important to have your attorney review the other terms in the severance agreement to make sure they are not overly broad.
When the employment relationship deteriorates, it sometimes happens that either the company or you desire to file a legal action against the other. For employees like you, these lawsuits are often based on unpaid compensation or defamation/slander of your name.
For companies, these lawsuits are often based on the taking of confidential information, solicitation of customers, or breaching the non-compete agreement. It is important to understand your claims and risks when going forward with litigation. Because of the unique contractual terms, it is critical that you include your attorney to assist you.
When a company believes that you have violated your non-compete agreement, solicited a client, or taken confidential information, then in addition to filing a lawsuit, they may have an injunction against you. These injunctions are called Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunctions.
In effect, it is a request that the court takes immediate action to prevent you from continuing the actions that violate your contract. These are nuanced and require a high burden of proof on the company to prevail. However, they are serious and if the company prevails they can greatly impact your ability to provide a living for yourself and your family.
Contact Counxel Legal Firm
In the end, you are in a unique employment situation, so embrace it. We are here to help you. Do not trust your legal issues to just anyone. Take it to someone who knows what you are going through. If you have any questions, please contact Counxel Legal Firm at firstname.lastname@example.org or 480-536-6122. We look forward to helping you.
This article is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice for your specific situation. Use of and access to this article does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Counxel Legal Firm. Please contact email@example.com or 480-536-6122 to request specific information for your situation.
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