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Employment Contracts

Consider uniform, ADEA-compliant severance and rights-waiver releases–even if age isn’t factor

There’s a way to make it easier to get severance agreements for older workers to stick. Instead of a general severance agreement for most employees, and a special ADEA-compliant one for older workers, use a uniform agreement that complies with the ADEA for all severance agreements. That’s what one employer recently did. When the former employee who signed the agreement tried to get out of it, the court refused.

Arbitration agreements are contracts! Keep them out of employee handbooks

The Supreme Court of Texas has just ruled that arbitration agreements are legally valid and enforceable as long as they are stand-alone contracts—and not part of an overall employment manual.

What’s this I hear about a ‘cooling-off’ period in layoffs involving severance pay?

Q. Is there a law that requires a 45-day waiting period from the time employees are told they’ll be laid off until they receive the severance payment? My supervisor said it’s called a cooling-off period.

Can a severance agreement waiving age claims prevent an ADEA suit?

Q. We are considering terminating an employee who will turn 41 this month. Can we ask him to sign a severance agreement that includes a release of his age discrimination claims under the ADEA?

Court upholds validity of employment agreement that required binding arbitration

A state appeals court has dismissed an employment discrimination case because the parties had signed an agreement that required disputes go to binding arbitration rather than court.

No contract with employees? Feel free to change terms of employment


Employers that don’t require employees to sign employment contracts are free to change the terms of employment anytime they want. By staying on the job, employees legally accept the new terms and become bound by them. That’s true even if they continue working under protest. Their only remedy would be to quit and sue over the change.

Good-faith treatment for all is good policy, and good protection against lawsuits, too


Employees who claim they have been discriminated against typically have to show that their employers singled them out for poor treatment because of a protected characteristic. It’s easy for employers to counter that if they can show they always act in good faith. The best way to do that is to apply the rules equally to every employee.

Take 17 steps to protect your trade secrets

Confidentiality agreements and covenants against disclosing trade secrets aren’t just concerns for high-tech companies like H-P and Oracle. Chances are, your organization has proprietary information and intellectual capital that it wants to keep away from competitors. Here are tips on how to do it the right way.

Can we make this hire? Confidentiality agreement doesn’t include a noncompete

Q. We want to hire an applicant, but received a letter from his employer stating that working for us would violate a confidentiality agreement he signed with that employer. Since he doesn’t have a noncompete agreement, can we hire him?

Don’t write overly broad restrictions into noncompetes

Noncompete covenants in Texas must be limited to a reasonable geographic area or they aren’t enforceable. Unfortunately for employers, that geographic area is usually fairly small.