It's hard to overstate the importance of precise, updated language in employment contracts and other documents in New Jersey. Reviewing your documents with an attorney on a regular basis is vital to protecting your business from employee lawsuits down the road. Even the most well-established businesses often fail to follow best practices in employee documents, and this can come back to bite them in the form of litigation. We take a look at some of the provisions you probably want to include in your employee paperwork.
If you employ workers on a contract basis, you will want to make sure the language in your contract is clear, comprehensive, and within the law. Some potential issues to examine include:
- Confidentiality clauses. It is important to be very thoughtful about the wording of any kind of confidentiality clause in an employment contract. In fact, you probably shouldn't include one at all without running it by a lawyer. This is because it is illegal in New Jersey to bar employees from discussing or disclosing salary terms, and it is also illegal to ask an employee to agree to confidentiality regarding cases of discrimination, retaliation, or harassment. So, make sure you understand what you can legally ask an employee to keep quiet about and review the language frequently as the law is always in flux.
- Arbitration agreements. You might think requiring employees to agree to arbitration should any legal issues arise is fairly boilerplate, but it's not when it relates to discrimination cases. New Jersey law prohibits any provision in an employment contract that limits any substantive or procedural right or remedy relating to a claim of discrimination. This likely applies to arbitration. For other legal situations, it's best to consult a lawyer before drafting the language.
- Overtime and bonuses. A solid employment contract spells out all of the terms of employment and is specific about grounds for termination. Included in this language should be a clear statement about whether the employee is eligible for overtime pay or not. It should also indicate that bonuses are discretionary and spell out terms for getting a bonus.
These are just a few contract provisions to review to make sure you are complying with state and federal law. Any similar clauses in your employee handbook could also cause problems.
Your employee handbook can be a great tool for preventing employee complaints and lawsuits—especially when you work with an employment lawyer to create it. However, some potential pitfalls in a handbook include:
- Paid Family Leave. New Jersey law requires you to display the official Family Leave Act poster in an area that is clearly visible to employees. Including the language in your handbook does not exempt you from also displaying the poster, but it is still a good idea to include the exact language in your employee handbook as well.
- Gender neutrality. Make sure all of the language in your handbook is gender-neutral. Do not differentiate between family leave for men and women, for example.
- Workplace rules. If you list anti-harassment, discrimination, or retaliation rules in your handbook, make sure they are accurate and current according to state and federal law. You should also include instructions for reporting complaints.
- Dress codes. Be very sure that your company's dress code or appearance guidelines don't violate anti-discrimination laws. Rules that differentiate dress codes by gender or that address hairstyles and facial hair can open a can of worms that it would be much better to leave closed.
Again, this is just a small sample of the ways an employee handbook can go wrong. When you work with an attorney to write a handbook that is specific to your company's needs, you can prevent a potential legal problem.
Get Legal Guidance From an Experienced Attorney
At Steinberg Law, our team is well-versed in current employment law and aware of forthcoming or potential changes, so we can help you draft or revise your employment documents. Don't risk a mistake that could impact your bottom line. Reach out to us by phone at 908-685-0600 or fill out our contact form, and we will get back to you promptly.