Evaluating a Job Offer: What to Look For
So, you got the job. You’ve successfully navigated the interview process, convinced your new employer of your value, and nailed the negotiations. But the process isn’t over yet. Even though you and the boss may have agreed on some basic aspects of the position, such as official job title and salary, there are other key areas of your employment agreement that you’ll want to discuss in depth before taking the job. Hidden terms in your offer letter may end up costing you in the long run, so be sure to evaluate your offer carefully, as tempting as it may be to accept immediately.
- Salary Information
The salary you’ll be given is likely a focal point of your job offer—but don’t fixate on that number alone. There are multiple other factors that will determine how much you’re actually paid, including benefits and bonuses. While the position’s benefits may have been part of your initial discussion with your new employer, be sure to read the fine print of your offer letter and understand exactly what you can expect in terms of insurance, savings or retirement plans, stock options, expense reimbursement, raises, and bonuses. Depending on the terms, it’s possible that you’re being offered less than you assume you are. Even if your interviewer mentions that employees in your position typically receive an annual discretionary bonus, for example, don’t assume that you’re guaranteed that money just because you were told you were. Does your offer letter state the bonus amount? The payment date? The performance standards under which the bonus is awarded? If terms that were discussed aren’t in your offer letter, your employer is not contractually obligated to fulfill them.
- Job Responsibilities
During the hiring process, it’s in an employer’s best interest to make a job position sound as appealing as possible in order to woo good candidates. However, this can mean that your interviewer has sugarcoated the job to make it sound better than it really is. Look at your job description critically once you receive your offer letter—are there unfavorable terms that have been snuck in? Additional responsibilities that were never mentioned? It will help you to ensure that the specific duties of your position are clearly spelled out in your offer letter, so that you can potentially protect yourself from being overworked should the need arise in the future.
- Paid Leave/FMLA Policy
You’ve probably checked the number of paid vacation and sick days in your offer, but you should also be aware of your company’s FMLA policy—which may not be directly stated in your offer letter. The Family Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, is a national law that protects workers in New York State from losing their jobs due to taking necessary time off for pregnancy, childbirth, adoption, illness, or to take care of a sick family member. The FMLA protects the employee’s job while he or she is away, but does not guarantee paid leave. Find out from your employer whether the company provides paid leave, or allows employees to put accrued paid leave, sick days, or vacation time towards their 12 weeks of guaranteed FMLA leave.
- Mandatory Arbitration
If your letter contains a mandatory arbitration provision, by accepting your employer’s offer, you are waiving your right to a jury in the event of a dispute with the company. This benefits your employer, as you’re locked into the company’s private dispute resolution process rather than pursing litigation in court. While arbitration may end up costing you less money, it can also prevent you from presenting as much evidence as you’d like, and you lose your right to appeal. Whether or not you choose to contest a mandatory arbitration provision, be aware of what it means in the event that you do have a future complaint against your employer.
- Non-compete and Non-solicit Policies
These provisions are especially common in employee offer letters. A non-compete clause will often state that after your employment ends, you are prohibited from working for any of your company’s competitors for a specific amount of time, in a specific geographic area. Non-solicit policies, similarly, prevent a former employee from soliciting any other workers, clients, or customers of a company to leave the company along with them. These clauses can apply whether you were terminated or resigned, and generally are enforceable, depending on the state. In New York State, the enforceability of such a provision generally depends on whether the provision is found to be “reasonable” upon analysis.
One aspect of your employment that is of growing importance is your right to privacy with regard to information technology. In one of our previous blogs, we covered the newly emerging consensus that online work complaints are a form of protected speech. The ruling discussed, however, was predicated on the fact that the employees had legitimate and verifiable complaints about their work conditions. Unfortunately, the law has not caught up with the ever-faster development of new technologies, and employees’ expectations of privacy may not align with their employers’. Therefore, it’s important to understand the privacy terms outlined in your offer letter, to be sure that you and your employer are on the same page when it comes to your workplace privacy, as well as the privacy of your personal email and social media accounts.
Even though your offer letter is suited to benefit your employer where possible, it also provides you with certain contractual rights as an employee. But the presence or absence of certain provisions will mean you’re not protected. In many cases, consultation with a lawyer can help you detect any unfavorable terms in your offer letter and put your mind at ease. Consultations are comparatively low-cost and often even pay for themselves when your lawyer identifies changes that will benefit you financially. The Law Office of Christopher Q. Davis regularly reviews employee offer letters and contracts in addition to severance agreements. Call today for a free consultation and we’ll be glad to help you.