Prepare When Signing An Employment Agreement.
In the giddiness and euphoria of getting a job, perhaps your dream job, at a radio station, what is the best way to protect yourself? Are you thinking clearly when you sit down, read the employee handbook and sign an employee agreement? Here's broadcast attorney John Garziglia with his thoughts on employment agreements and what you can do.
"While generalizing about anything in employment law is difficult, perhaps one observation that can be made is that the higher level the job, the likely greater importance of an employment agreement to both the potential employee and the potential employer. The best way to protect yourself as the employee is to fully understand each provision of the handbook and employee agreement, and to seek your own legal counsel for an explanation of any provisions that are not fully understood, and for assistance in negotiating provisions to protect you."
"There is no such thing as a standard employment agreement. It is not like signing up for a credit card or cable service each of which may be accompanied by a multi-page small print agreement with many irrelevant provisions that cannot be changed. Employment agreements for different radio station employers are likely to be vastly different, have provisions that are highly relevant to your future, and have provisions that can be negotiated."
"While in interviews for a radio station position, ask in advance if you will be required to sign an employment agreement and if so, would you be able to see a copy of what you might be expected to sign. Once an employment agreement is signed, assuming that it is enforceable under state law, the provisions of the agreement will control your relations with the employer both during and then subsequent to your employment with the employer."
"There are an almost unlimited range of subjects that might be covered in an employment agreement. The subjects range from rate of compensation, bonuses, term of employment, services and duties to be performed, times services are to be performed, radio station rules and procedures, performance metrics, ownership of copyrightable material produced while employed including creative and social media, reimbursement of expenses incurred, fiduciary obligations to employer, confidentiality both while employed and subsequent to termination of employment, disclosure of employer materials, competition with employer after termination, health and life insurance benefits, vacations and other time-off, termination of employment, return of employer property upon termination, requirements for mediation or arbitration in lieu of lawsuits, rights to seek injunctions or other restraints against employee, rights of employer or employee to seek reimbursement of legal fees in the event of litigation, indemnification, courts in which any litigation is to be brought, and the state law under which the employment agreement will be construed, among others."
"Employment agreements for radio personalities, radio salespersons, new media creators, and managers are likely to be radically different. What might be a vast overreach in one agreement for a particular position might be entirely suitable for another. What might be legal for an employment agreement in one state might be prohibited in another. Only a lawyer well versed in a particular state’s employment law can fully advise you on a particular employment agreement."
"In today’s world of internet web legal materials, employees can somewhat educate themselves on the kinds of provisions they may be facing in an employment agreement. But, such personal research is no substitute for an attorney’s independent advice regarding the specific agreement an employee may be asked to sign."
"An employment agreement should offer protections and definitiveness in the employee/employer relationship for both the employee and employer. Take a look at this agreement for a radio personality: http://www.stlmedia.net/pdf/steveshannoncontract.pdf, and this agreement for a management position: http://www.foxbghsuit.com/B%20Akre%20Contract.htm. Are each of the agreement provisions understandable to you? If each of the provisions are not fully understandable to you and you are presented with such an agreement, will you seek the services of an employment lawyer to assist you?"
"Keep in mind that the employment agreement presented to you by your new employer is likely to be an agreement that the employer has worked on, massaged, thought about and continually revised for many employees over many years. A potential employee horribly shortchanges himself or herself to not give such an employment agreement the importance it deserves by having his or her own lawyer review and advise on it."
"If your potential employer promises something, be sure to put it in the agreement in writing. If there is something unacceptable in the agreement, or if there are protective provisions missing, just about the only time to ask for changes is prior to signing the agreement. Read the agreement fully and carefully. Know what each provision means. Know what is the ramification of each provision on you. And finally, seriously consider seeking advice from legal counsel on the specific agreement so you know what to ask for prior to signing the agreement."
John F. Garziglia is a Communications Law Attorney with Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice in Washington, DC and can be reached at (202) 857-4455 or email@example.com. Have a question for our "Ask The Attorney" feature? Send to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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