When accepting a job in a new organization, you’re always asked to sign forms: Registering for healthcare, federal and state tax forms, and other benefits or insurances. You may also be asked (required) to sign an employment contract, or forms that you will not compete when you leave (non-compete), forms that you will not contact customers or current employees (non-solicitation) , or forms that you will not disclose company information (non-disclosure).
Here’s an outline of what you need to know:
Company benefits: These are standard forms that enroll you in company programs. Read the manuals so you know what is included and how much it will cost.
Employment contract: If you are high enough in the organization to receive a contract, enlist the services of an attorney. Most contracts are complicated and requires scrutiny.
Non-compete: Most documents will say you can’t compete in a similar business, within so many miles from your location. Be careful here: How is “a similar business “defined? By product or by industry? What if it’s a competitor but your job is different? How many miles away? Will you have to move to another state get a job? How long do you have to wait until you can work for a competitor? What if you want to start your own business?
Non-solicitation: Most will say that if you move to another job you can’t recruit employees from your current employer nor contact customers. What’s the definition of solicitation? Can you send information without soliciting? What if a co-worker asks you to pass on their resume? Or at your going away party, 10 employees give you their resume before you’re an employee of the new company? What if customers ask you to have a representative contact them? What do you do?
Non-disclosure: Most will say that you cannot give any information about your work, policies or practices to anyone else. Of special concern is sensitive information about patents, pricing, costs, customer lists, business strategies, competitive analysis, and so on. A big no-no.
You need to understand that these documents are not designed to protect you, but rather to protect your current employer from you. If you are given one or more of these documents to sign, talk with an attorney who specializes in this area. Signing without reading the documents is foolhardy. You may regret it later on. Lastly, most documents are negotiable. Find out what the minimum requirements are first, then try to limit the scope of time, distance and information.
Never: Never, ever consent to pay your old employer’s legal fees if you are challenged. Never believe someone who says, “It’s just a formality. We never pursue a violation”. Never use a company computer for personal use. Never use social media, including LinkedIn, to communicate anything about your past employer. Never assume they won’t find out. When you’re caught it will be very expensive, time consuming, and will directly affect your career, but not in a good way.
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