Arizona’s governor vetoed an important employment law bill last month. Despite high levels of public support for anti-discrimination laws against gays and lesbians, state law still does not protect residents from discrimination based on sexual orientation. The veto means that employers in Arizona can discriminate against a potential or current employee based on his or her sexual orientation.
Employment laws can change frequently, highlighting the importance of staying on top of potential changes. Instances of employment law litigation can easily arise regarding a number of employee versus employer issues such as:
- Wrongful termination
- Unpaid or underpaid wages and overtime
- Vague or illegal employment contract clauses
- Retaliation and discrimination
While some employment issues may seem obvious, many details may be missed, stressing the need for legal advice. Before drafting or signing an employment agreement, consider the following important contract provisions:
- Independent contractor versus employee: First, it is important to understand the differences between an employee and an independent contractor and establish which the newly hired person will be. Issues of taxes, benefits and employee oversight must be considered as there are legal ramifications for both types of statuses.
- Cover the basics: Be sure to outline the basics of the position such as expectations for wages, overtime pay, working hours, training and entitlement to benefits. Outline issues of vacation approval, probationary periods and flexible workdays with clear guidelines and easily understood procedures.
- Protect your assets: Employers frequently protect their business assets through non-compete and nondisclosure clauses in order to keep trade secrets and internally developed products from their competitors. Employees should have a firm understanding of the restrictions placed on them. For example, intellectual property developed on their own time may actually belong to the companies for which they work.
- Termination provisions: In Arizona, unless specifically defined in a written employment agreement, the term of employment may end at the will of either party. If you do have a specified period of employment, details regarding severance pay and other responsibilities should be included in the contract. Such terms may include the return of company property from an employee’s home office, entitlement to unused vacation accruals, use of employee-developed products or systems and restraints on the employee competing in the same or similar business.
These are only a few important employment law issues that should be addressed in agreements between employees or independent contractors and their employers.
Consult a lawyer
No matter which side of the table you are on, it is important to consult an experienced employment law attorney before drafting an agreement. A lawyer knowledgeable about all types of contracts and issues of employment law can help tailor a contract to fit your needs.