After accepting a new job offer, the prospect of a new position and the resulting opportunities can produce a rush of excitement. But that doesn’t mean you should rush through your onboarding paperwork.
You’ll want to review all employment documents carefully — and this includes more than just choosing the correct withholdings on your W-4. “What is in the hiring documents likely will play a substantial role in governing how any issues will be resolved,” said Matt Koski, the program director at the National Employment Lawyers Association.
Here are some common documents included in an onboarding package at a new job and what you need to know about each one.
1. Employment contract
The most obvious document to review is your employment agreement or contract. It doesn’t have to be written — an oral agreement of employment is valid, too, according to legal site Nolo. But it’s often recorded in a document that you can review and sign ahead of or on your first day at work.
Most employment agreements will cover the details of the job you’re being hired to do — the length of employment, your duties and responsibilities, and your compensation including salary, vacation time, and other important work benefits.
The other documents on this list might be included as sections of your employment contract, too, or presented as separate documents.
What to look for: Before signing on the dotted line, thoroughly review all details outlined in this contract to be sure it jives with any discussions you’ve had with your potential employer. For instance, if the hiring manager agreed to offer a signing bonus, you’ll want to make sure it’s included in the document, along with as any conditions about pay.
2. At-will agreement
An at-will agreement is a common document or clause included in your hiring documents. The agreement states you’re employed at the will and convenience of both parties — either you or your employer can choose to terminate your employment at any time.
Montana is the only state with laws that prohibit at-will employment agreements. For workers in the rest of U.S., at-will agreements are common enough to be considered the rule and not the exception. If you’ve ever had a job, chances are you’ve signed such an agreement.
What to look for: If you’re presented with an at-will agreement, that’s probably part of the official policy of the company. Review your hiring documents and watch for language that would indicate whether it’s at-will employment or not, such as a company stating its right to terminate employment for any reason, with or without cause.
Not all companies have at-will agreements, however. Some companies outline when and for what reasons an employee can be terminated, and these rules would mean you’re not an at-will employee. For companies with such policies, request to review them before signing anything.
3. Noncompete, nonsolicitation, and nondisclosure agreements
Many employers will provide you with legal contracts or clauses designed to protect themselves and their business interests. By signing them, you agree to follow certain restrictions during and after your employment with the company.
Here are some common agreements that could be in your hiring documents:
A noncompetition agreement: It usually restricts you from leaving a company to go work for a competitor and is meant to protect the employer’s business interests, according to legal resource FindLaw.
A nonsolicitation agreement: It bars you from reaching out to clients or customers of a former employer to benefit yourself or your new employer, according to Nolo.
A nondisclosure agreement: It restricts you from disclosing certain proprietary company information that’s valuable and confidential, according to The Balance Careers.
What to look for: Noncompete, nonsolicitation, and nondisclosure agreements are common inclusions in many hiring packets. But not all agreements are the same, and you’ll want to read and review all the terms carefully. Say you do freelance work as a side hustle, for instance — you’d need to know if that would violate any noncompete agreement.
Most courts won’t enforce a noncompete doc that’s considered unreasonably long or harsh enough to keep you from making a living. If a noncompete, nonsolicitation, or nondisclosure agreement seems unreasonable, don’t sign it until you’re satisfied that it won’t pose a threat to your future career or current side hustle.
4. Arbitration agreements
In arbitration agreements, you and your potential employer agree to settle disputes outside of court and through an arbitration process, instead.
Recent events have put a spotlight on arbitration agreements in light of sexual harassment and other workplace disputes, Koski said, but they’re commonly included in employment documents.
What to look for: Arbitration agreements usually outline the terms of potential arbitration: which party chooses the arbitrator, how the process is paid for, limits on costs, etc., according to Nolo. Review the agreement fully and consider asking about or even negotiating any terms that seem confusing or unreasonable.
The do’s and don’ts of reviewing your employment packet
The interviewing and hiring process can contain potential faux pas and miscommunications, but you’ll want to make a good impression. If you have questions about your hiring packet, you might fear that raising them will make you seem annoying or difficult.
Even so, your careful review of these documents is central to your due diligence ahead of starting a new job. Find out what to do and not do as you navigate and negotiate this tricky process.
Do read all documents before signing anything. If you’re not sure what you’re signature is indicating, ask and understand before moving forward.
Don’t assume that an employment agreement clause won’t apply to you, and don’t take your employer at its word if it says it won’t enforce a clause. It might not do it now, but your life and the company you work for could change in the future.
Do look at these legal agreements from all angles. “Attempt, to the extent possible, to think about how the employment relationship or one’s own personal life may be different months or years down the line,” Koski advised.
Don’t run away when you encounter the first clause or contract that looks confusing. The documents outlined above are common, and “their inclusion in an employer’s hiring documents does not necessarily indicate an elevated risk of unfair policies or practices,” Koski said.
Do take your time in reviewing all the documents. “Any prospective employee who has the opportunity to do so should ask her potential employer about these clauses, and if possible, seek independent legal advice about any provisions she may not fully understand,” Koski suggested.
Don’t make demands if you’re not willing to lose a job offer. “[Job-seekers] tend to be presented with hiring documents on a ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ basis, without any meaningful opportunity for negotiation or even discussion,” Koski said. You can ask for adjustments, but weigh the request with the risk of missing out on this job offer before doing so.
The prospect of starting a new job can be thrilling and exciting, but it shouldn’t make you too hasty. A thorough review of employment contracts will help you catch any red flags and protect your interests.
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1 Important Disclosures for SoFi.
2 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 7.89% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.54% APR (with Auto Pay) to 7.27% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of March 18, 2019, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 0318/2019. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at email@example.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on ourstudent loan refinance product.
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Laurel Road Disclosures
However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the fixed rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular fixed interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.
However, if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically by electronic funds transfer (EFT) from a bank account, the variable rate will decrease by 0.25%, and will increase back up to the regular variable interest rate described in the preceding paragraph if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically by EFT from the designated borrower’s bank account.
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Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
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Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown.
All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate. All variable rates are based on a 1-month LIBOR assumption of 2.5% effective February 10, 2019.
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