In 2018, the economy is booming, and employers everywhere are hiring. Here in Florida, most workers are “at will” employees, which means that they work without an employment contract, and they may be legally fired without cause.

But if you own a business in the state of Florida and you need to have one or more – or all – of your employees sign an employment contract, what will need to be considered? Can a business law firm in Daytona Beach help?

WHAT SHOULD BE INCLUDED IN AN EMPLOYMENT CONTRACT?

Legally speaking, it is a good idea for employers to offer their employees a written agreement which sets forth the terms and conditions of their employment. The document should include specific details about the nature of the work, the compensation, and any additional benefits.

An employment contract spells out precisely what is expected of an employee, and in return, it also specifies what the employee may expect from the employer.

If you own a business in this state, an experienced business attorney can draft the employment contracts that meet your precise needs and give you full legal protection. And as you might imagine, anyone doing business these days needs full legal protection.

A reliable business lawyer can also provide the legal advice and additional legal services that your business needs.

WHAT DO EMPLOYERS WANT EMPLOYMENT CONTRACTS TO ACCOMPLISH?

For employers in Florida, generally speaking, here is what needs to be addressed in an employment contract – and what needs to be kept in mind as the contract is drafted:

1. Retaining the employee: Employment contracts should stipulate the minimum amount of time an employee must remain with an employer. A contract may also stipulate that the employee must give the employer sufficient notice to find an appropriate replacement.

2. Setting goals and standards. An employment contract should include the employer’s expected standards, performance goals, and other productivity measures for the employee.

3. Protecting intellectual property: If the employee has access to confidential information, you must set some guidelines regarding what may and may not be disclosed.

4. Providing security for both employee and employer: With a properly drafted contract, both sides understand the other side’s expectations, and both enjoy certain legal protections.

WHAT SPECIFICS MUST BE ADDRESSED IN AN EMPLOYMENT CONTRACT?

The specifics that must be addressed in almost any employment contract include:

1. the employee’s responsibilities
2. the pay and pay schedule, benefits, and commissions or bonuses
3. leave and how to request it
4. profit-sharing and stock options
5. mileage and travel expenses
6. rules for the use of company property
7. rules and processes for employee discipline and termination

The last point above needs elaboration. An employment contract should spell out exactly what steps an employer must take in order to terminate the employee legally. This provision will help to protect an employer from a possible lawsuit for wrongful termination.

An employer may also want to include clauses in an employment contract that clarify employer policies regarding matters such as harassment and discrimination. It’s a good idea.

WHAT ABOUT NON-COMPETE AND CONFIDENTIALITY AGREEMENTS?

Some employers in Florida should also have their employees sign non-compete agreements. Employers in our state have only a limited legal ability to keep ex-employees from competing against them – and for only a specific length of time and in a certain geographical location.

Still, a good business lawyer can help you draft the best possible non-compete agreements. The right business attorney can also help you draft confidentiality agreements that Florida courts, if necessary, will enforce.

Employment contracts are legally binding and enforceable. If one party to a contract fails to meet its contractual obligations, the other party has the right to take legal action.

Contract dispute resolution is handled through the state courts, so Florida employers need to work with a business attorney who has substantial experience handling contract dispute cases in this state.

WHY SHOULD YOU AVOID PRE-PRINTED CONTRACT FORMS?

Every word that is printed in an employment contract counts. Every line is important. Employers absolutely must avoid using the pre-printed, blank contract forms that you can buy at an office supply store or download from the internet.

Instead, as an employer, you need precisely-written contracts drafted exclusively for your own company’s needs. A business attorney can protect an employer by drafting easily-understood employment contracts that cannot be misconstrued or misinterpreted.

Employers who wish to hire employees on an at-will basis, for instance, must avoid any language in an employment contract that leads an employee to believe that the period of employment will be indefinite.

Additionally, employers who wish to bind employees to particular terms and conditions must ensure that the language in an employment contract will hold up and will protect their interests if challenged in court.

WHAT’S THE BEST WAY FOR EMPLOYERS TO AVOID LEGAL PROBLEMS?

Deciding to retain a business attorney is the smart step that every Florida employer should take to avoid most legal problems and to deal constructively with any legal problems that may become unavoidable.

A good business attorney will help you draft, interpret, and enforce employment contracts, and if necessary, will guide you through the legal process if you are sued over an employment contract – or if you need to have an employment contract enforced.

Employers routinely sign a variety of contracts. It’s an almost daily part of doing business. However, there’s no such thing as a “simple” business contract, and if you own a business, you should never sign a contract without the advice of a good business attorney.

WHEN SHOULD YOU CONTACT A FLORIDA BUSINESS ATTORNEY?

Employers should have a business attorney review every line and every word of every contract they sign or use in their business on a regular basis.

A good business attorney should also sign off on any modifications, deletions, or additions to any business contract. The advice of a good business lawyer is invaluable, and the slight cost can save a business owner immeasurably in the long run.

Choose to protect yourself and your Florida business starting today. If you do not already have the services of an experienced business attorney, make the call immediately. Protecting yourself and your business is always the right thing to do.

By: Melody Lankford
After graduating from Davidson College, Melody Lankford earned her J.D. from Florida State University’s College of Law in 2004 and was admitted to the Florida Bar that same year. Ms. Lankford joined Raydon Corporation as in-house counsel in 2004. She worked there until 2012, when she founded the Lankford Law Firm. She is an experienced Daytona Beach small business attorney who offers sound legal counsel and experience-based insights to her business clients.