Houston Employment Agreement Attorneys

Not everyone works under a standard at-will employment status in Texas. While it has traditionally been the most common way people are hired and work for an employer, recent years have spawned significant use of other employment agreements ranging from contractors to temporary workers, to intermittent and seasonal employment, to even partnership ventures. Each one comes with its own terms and nuances for how the hiring party and the service or working party perform and is protected. As a result, anytime someone is offered an approach that is unique or uncommon versus standard at-will employment, having a second set of eyes on it from a legal perspective is a very good idea before engaging. Legal counsel for work agreements has yet to prove itself as a career mistake, but there are plenty of war stories about people jumping into an agreement blind and regretting it.

Types of Employment Contracts in Texas

Generally, any agreement to work and be paid for in Texas qualifies as an employment contract. However, most people don’t fill out a formal agreement because they are hired under “at-will” employment. That gives both the employee and the employer the ability to hire and quit at any time without any further obligation. There is no requirement that a hiring has a formal agreement in Texas either. The primary restrictions on any employment situation are mainly federal in terms of not allowing any discrimination of a protected class in hiring and termination (race, sex, religion, medical, etc.).

Despite the above, employment agreements in a formal format are increasing in Texas. That puts employees and hires in a confusing position because it can be hard to stall on an offer when concerned about not understanding the legal ramifications of an agreement. In the meantime, employers are tucking clauses and language in the agreement that are extremely protective of the hiring party and remove protections from employees who need work and income. However, everyone has the right to seek counsel for an agreement review before signing an employment agreement.

Basic Generic Elements in Most Contracts

Most employment contracts and agreements should have certain parts to them. Every employment attorney will be looking for these elements and will flag an agreement missing them as they are deemed essential for a working contract. They include:

  • A description of the job duties or service to be provided
  • The time commitment expected from the employee daily and weekly
  • The terms of working availability of the employee
  • The measurement by which the performance of the employee is measured
  • The limits the employee agrees to in terms of activities outside work, if any (including online)
  • The time or length the employee will be hired and employed, as well as how that will be renewed, if at all
  • The compensation paid to the employee for successful work performed, how it will be paid, and when (including wages, benefits, fringe benefits, and advantages or access allowed)
  • The execution of the agreement signed by both parties
  • How the agreement will be terminated and the rights of both parties to terminate as well as what notice would be required
    • How termination with cause as well as no cause will be handled
  • How disputes will be handled (most agreements lean towards arbitration to avoid court)
  • The use and disposition of company property (computer, phone, ID cards, access cards, company equipment, etc.) and penalties for loss or damage
  • How the employee could be tested (performance skills tests and drug tests)
  • Confidentiality terms the employee agrees to for not disclosing company information
  • Any kind of lifestyle covenant or non-solicitation clause (these are used to restrain employees from interacting or considering work with someone else while employed)
  • Secondary income restrictions (anti-moonlighting clauses blocking an employee from taking on other work as a second job)

While this might seem like an extensive list, these are the basic terms and sections that are in most employment contracts, and prospective employees need to know what they mean or if present before signing. An employment attorney can validate this list for a worker very efficiently.

Educator/Teacher Employment Contracts

Given the specialized nature of teaching, especially when dealing with minors, Texas state law has a significant amount of restrictions and regulations on how teachers are hired and employed. That includes requirements for probation periods, seniority, and specifications for employment time/length. This applies to multiple classifications in the education arena, including administrative positions, nurses, sports coaches, and similar. Ironically, private school institution employment contracts are not under this state regulation.

Collective Bargaining Employment

Better known as union jobs, or union shop work, skilled employment that involves membership in a represented group can have terms of employment in agreement that apply to all union members. New employees have to agree to these terms of employment to work in a “union” shop, and changes are made through the collective bargaining process, not by the employee alone with the employer. These types of agreements apply to “rank and file” positions. Supervisory positions are exempt, even in a “union” shop company or agency.

Timing a Legal Review

When offered employment, the pressure can seem significant to agree right away to whatever terms are required, especially if one has been looking for work for a while or the position offered is very lucrative. However, the smarter decision in most cases is to ask for a reasonable time to decide, usually a day. Within this window, getting a Houston employment attorney’s review of an agreement can be critical to understanding what loopholes or restrictions one might be putting on themselves for that new job and pay.

Remember, employers already have attorneys on their staff or available to them by contract. So, their employment contracts are drafted and written with their interests in mind. They expect that new hires won’t look closely due to just wanting to be employed as quickly as possible. It’s in this pressure cooker that abusive language can be included subtly and without much notice aside from a careful reader who knows what the clauses actually mean. A Houston employment attorney on your side can even the odds.

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