Employment & Severance Agreements
Our Boston employment lawyers advise and represent individuals in all aspects of dealing with employment agreements or contracts. We advise executives and other professionals who have been hired or promoted into new positions to help them negotiate favorable contract terms, on issues such as salary, bonus, equity interest, stock options, and other benefits. We counsel clients on the meaning of existing agreements, including restrictive covenants such as confidentiality, non-compete, and non-solicitation clauses. If an employee has an employment contract and faces an adverse action, such as termination or demotion, evaluation of the contract is essential to determining what recourse the employee has against the employer.
Absent a contract, by default, an employee in Massachusetts is considered “at will,” that is, either the employer or the employee can end the employment relationship for any reason or no reason (except for unlawful discrimination, retaliation, or another reason specifically prohibited by law). An employment contract usually gives an employee greater rights and gives both parties more certainty about the nature and terms of employment. Contracts can come in many different forms. Some are long documents or forms written in legalese, but a simple letter may be just as valid. Oral promises are sometimes enforceable contracts. And, in some circumstances, an employee manual or handbook can be the basis of an enforceable contract if an employer fails to follow its own policies or procedures.
If an employer has not been carrying out its duties under a contract, the employee may have a breach of contract claim. When assessing a contract dispute, we work with our client to gain a thorough understanding of the relationship over time between the employer and employee, which sheds light on each party’s understanding of the meaning of a contract. We examine all relevant documents, in light of the governing law, so that we can give an informed opinion about each party’s responsibilities under the contract. Depending on the situation, we may be able to empower our client to advocate for their rights directly, or we can engage with an employer on our client’s behalf. If the employer refuses to honor its obligations, we are ready to litigate to enforce contracts on behalf of our clients.
Employees may also need advice on employment agreements they have previously signed. This often occurs with respect to confidentiality, non-compete, and non-solicitation agreements when an employee is contemplating leaving the company or has already left the company. In these cases, we scrutinize the agreements to assess whether the particular provisions are legally valid and, if so, the scope and effect of the provisions. We will counsel our clients so they fully understand the provisions and think creatively to craft and investigate possible defenses. If a client is faced with allegations of breaching such an agreement, we will take any steps necessary to resolve the matter favorably for our client, including negotiating with the employer or litigating in court if required.
Every situation is unique, and it is important to seek legal advice if you are concerned about your rights or responsibilities under a contract. Because federal and state laws can limit the scope of contracts, and especially employment contracts, the words on the page of a contract could mean more or less than what they seem to say. An attorney familiar with the laws governing contracts can help explain the practical impact of a contract and what it means for you. If you have questions about an employment contract, or you believe that your employer has broken or will break a contract with you, we urge you to call our Boston employment lawyers at (617) 742-6020 or fill out our online contact form to speak to an employment lawyer who can assist you.