Uncomfortable Conversations — Politics, Religion, and the Terms of Your Employment Contract

 In Employment Law

When starting a new romantic relationship, there are specific topics that are generally understood to be best avoided. Some examples include:

  • How much you dislike your ex;
  • Politics and religion;
  • Money; and,
  • How soon they are looking to get married.

These topics can be very personal, and the inherent fear is that the relationship will start off on the wrong foot (or go nowhere at all).

Getting Legal Advice on New Employment Contracts

The world of employment relationships is not that all that different. It is not unusual for clients to confess that they would much rather take a contract “as is” and hope for the best instead of having what they fear will be an awkward conversation about the terms of an employment contract.

It is true that, like a first date, some topics are best avoided during your initial conversations with a prospective employer. There is wisdom in not ranting about how much you hate your former employer. Likewise, discussions about politics, religion, and sex are typically best avoided during the early interview stage and as a safe rule perhaps best left out of the employment relationship altogether. However, when it comes to employment, discussing topics like money and the rules around how the relationship between employee and employer will come to an end if (when) the time comes are necessary conversations.

The problem is, for many people, talking about these topics feels impolite, awkward, and out of character. Bringing in a lawyer is about as off-putting to some as inviting your parent on a first date. Prospective employees are often concerned that they will seem aggressive, combative, and worry the contract will be withdrawn. For some, even consulting a lawyer can seem disloyal; the idea of telling their prospective employer that they would like to get legal advice feels like inviting certain disaster.

Here are reasons to go ahead and get that advice anyway:

  1. This is an opportunity to make sure you understand your rights and obligations (including possible post-employment obligations such as non-solicitation agreements) before you sign. You may still decide that you will not request changes, but at least you are walking into the relationship fully aware of what you are agreeing
  2. The way certain clauses are drafted, like termination clauses, can make a significant difference to how smoothly you are able to transition to a new opportunity if your employment comes to an early end. It is not uncommon for people to only read their termination clause for the first time after they were let go and that they wished they had understood the terms earlier.
  3. In the event changes are needed, an employment lawyer can often provide guidance on how to negotiate modifications to your contract in a constructive and non-confrontational way.  We understand that you are looking to preserve your relationship and not end it — in our experience, employers are often open to negotiating the terms of the agreement. The purpose of the agreement is to help both parties arrive at conditions that are fair (and provide some certainty).
  4. Discretion — no one needs to know that you sought legal advice. Lawyers can often provide assistance without getting directly involved.
  5. Finally, sometimes what you will learn is that the employer is offering a very fair, well-balanced contract that provides certainty to both parties. This knowledge can help build trust and loyalty from the beginning.

Our team of lawyers work with both employees and employers and can assist with drafting, reviewing, and negotiating the terms of employment contracts.

This blog post was written by Colleen Hoey, a Partner in the Employment team.  She can be reached at 613-369-0366 or at Colleen.Hoey@mannlawyers.com.

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