S.T. Legal Group, an accomplished employment law practice, provides valuable counsel and strong representation to employers and employees throughout Lake County, Illinois. One of the basic services our principal attorney, Diana Taylor, provides is the preparation of employment agreements. If you have any questions regarding how to prepare an employment agreement or would like our Lake County employment law attorney to review your agreement, contact us today to get started.
Lake County, one of the collar counties of Chicago is well-named since it is prized for the beauty and recreational opportunities of bordering Lake Michigan and being home to a total of 1,000 lakes. What those who live in other parts of the country may not know is that Lake County is also a thriving business community requiring the refined legal skills of our firm.
Creating employment agreements is a serious undertaking. Such documents must be very carefully worded by an attorney who is familiar with federal and state employment laws if they are to serve the purpose of being succinct as well as inclusive and legally binding.
Overview of a Lake County Employment Agreement
Employment agreements establish the terms and conditions of employment for both parties at the time of hire, including:
- Duties and responsibilities of the employee
- Salary and hours, potential bonuses
- Grounds for discipline and termination
- Severance pay and benefits
- Times and length of breaks for lunch and other purposes
- Days off: holidays, sick days, vacation days, family leave, personal days
If you are an employer, having an employment lawyer craft your employment agreement is essential to make certain that you have covered all the bases and that you are up-to-date on recent employment legislation. If you are an employee, you should have an employment attorney look over the agreement so that you do not, in your enthusiasm at getting a new job, neglect to notice terms that are not in your best interests.
Understanding a Lake County Nondisclosure Agreement (NDA)/Confidentiality Agreement
Employers may also ask new hires to sign nondisclosure agreements (NDAs). The purpose of such documents is to protect businesses from having confidential information — e.g. trade secrets, new products, innovative technological advances, and client lists — from being leaked to actual or potential competitors. For the most part, of course, employers keep this type of sensitive information to themselves or only trust it to those in top-tier positions.
Most of the time, confidentiality agreements are considered to be in force even after an employee leaves the company. They typically have a duration of 2 to 5 years. Employees should always consult with a sharp employment attorney to make certain they are not putting themselves in jeopardy by signing such an agreement.
At S.T. Legal Group, we have seen an uptick in calls for noncompete agreements during the COVID-19 pandemic. As we are all aware, during the health crisis, many people left jobs they felt put them at elevated risk. Many others were laid off when their employers’ businesses floundered or collapsed.
Noncompete agreements are designed to protect employers from increased competition that will result if a former employee goes to work for a direct competitor or starts a competing business nearby. Such an employee, disgruntled or just eager to succeed, is likely to bring valuable information to the new workplace, giving the new employer an edge. Noncompete agreements usually cover a 2-to 3-year period.
There are several reasons you need the protection of legal counsel before presenting or signing a noncompete agreement. If you are the employer, you have to be sure that the document properly safeguards your business interests so the employee who leaves does erode your position in the community. If you are an employee, you want to be sure that the noncompete agreement leaves you sufficient leeway, in terms of geographic area and time limits, to earn a living using the skills you have mastered.
Though employees cannot be forced to sign noncompete agreements, doing so is usually in their best interests since it leaves them on good terms with their former employer. It may also encourage employees to explore job opportunities outside their comfort zone and learn new, desirable skills.
In order to be considered legally binding, non-compete agreements must meet the following criteria:
- Be reasonable in terms of the time period and geographical area they cover
- Protect a legitimate business interest of the employer
- Provide the employee with a valid consideration (benefit) for complying
Most courts will not allow a noncompete agreement to prevent an employee from working in any geographical area in which the employer does not yet do business. In addition, it should be noted that Illinois law does not allow noncompete agreements to be used for low-wage employees, i.e. employees earning less than $13 per hour.
When employees part ways with their employers, a severance agreement is often signed. For the employee, this delineates the amount of severance pay that will be paid and whether or for how long benefits may continue; for the employer, the severance agreement ensures that the employee will not sue the company for any other reason, nor say or post criticisms of the employer (though this clause is not easily enforceable).
Diana Taylor frequently provides legal counsel to employers or employees who are in the process of severing a long-term relationship. As is common with employment documents, there may be a hidden hazard in signing a severance agreement that only a legal professional foresees. If you are the employee, for example, you may have a valid legal claim worth more than the offered severance package, in which case Diana can use that claim as leverage to negotiate a higher severance amount.
You should be aware that employees 40 years or older have special protection under the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act, an amendment to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, that requires your employer to give you at least 21 days (under some circumstances 45 days) to consider signing the Severance Agreement.
Contact Our Lake County Employment Agreement Attorney Today
Employment agreements, though they seem straightforward, can be tricky to navigate if legalese is not your native tongue. Whether you are an employer or an employee, consulting with our Lake County employment agreement lawyer will protect you from casually signing an employment agreement that puts you in harm’s way.