Ottawa Employment Contract & Compensation Lawyers

Nearly every employment relationship is defined by the terms of a written contract clearly setting out the legal rights and obligations between the two parties. An employer’s goal in creating a contract will naturally be to protect its own interests. For example, an employment contract may attempt to place limits on an employee’s career prospects in the event the employment relationship should break down in the future. Further, employment contracts often set out the terms with respect to an employee’s compensation entitlements at the time of departure.

Terms relating to both of these issues can have serious negative repercussions for an employee if they are not properly reviewed and negotiated whenever possible. As a result, it is key that an employee retains a skilled employment lawyer to comprehensively review the contract before signing. In cases where an advance review was not possible and it becomes necessary to defend against unfair contract terms, an experienced employment lawyer will work to improve their client’s position after the fact through determined negotiation or representation in dispute resolution.

The lawyers at Champ & Associates have considerable experience working with executive-level employees with respect to concerns over employment contracts and compensation matters. They are uniquely experienced in a variety of employment scenarios, including private companies, cross-border employment, and high-ranking positions in the public sector. They have earned a reputation for their fearless dedication to employee advocacy and routinely work with clients to ensure their rights are protected both before and after signing an employment agreement.

What Is Typically Included in a Contract of Employment?

Common issues addressed by an employment agreement can include:

  1. Termination and severance pay obligations to the employee
    • Note it is possible for an employer to place limitations on these obligations in an employment contract, however, they may not fall below the minimums set out in provincial and/or federal employment legislation;
  2. Limits placed on post-employment activities through a ‘non-compete’ or a ‘non-solicitation’ clause;
  3. Entitlements to bonuses or stock options at the end of the employment relationship;
  4. Privacy and confidentiality issues;
  5. A severability clause, which says that if any term of the agreement is later found to be unenforceable, it can be carved out of the contract, allowing the remaining terms to remain in force; and
  6. An arbitration clause, stating that any disputes arising under the terms of employment set out in the contract will be resolved via binding arbitration rather than litigation.

In a perfect world, the issues covered in an employment contract would always be subject to negotiation between the employer and employee before the parties formalize the agreement. Often, employment contracts contain complex legal language, which can effectively conceal matters the employee might otherwise object to. In cases where negotiation of the terms is possible, an employee should always seek the advice of legal counsel to ensure fair treatment and a thorough review of the contract in advance of signing.

Consideration and the Validity of an Employment Agreement

If the terms of an employment contract have not been agreed to prior to the commencement of employment, then it can be very difficult for the company to raise or enforce these issues after this date. The reason for this is the contract law doctrine of ‘consideration’, which requires an exchange of value between the contracting parties in order to create a valid contract. In an employment context, the employee is providing the employer with a signed contract in exchange for regular employment. If the employee has already started working before the contract is signed, it could be argued that the essential contract was already established and there was insufficient consideration to affect a valid agreement.

The same concept of consideration also applies to situations where an employee is promoted or transferred to a new role with the same employer. If an employee’s role is changing significantly, particularly if they receive a promotion to a more senior level involving additional responsibilities and compensation, the employer should formalize any new terms relating to issues such as severance or stock purchase programs before the new role begins. If a new contract is executed after the employee begins the new role, a court may find certain unfavourable terms of the contract are unenforceable.

For Skilled Assistance and Advice on Employment Contracts and Compensation Matters, Contact Champ & Associates

Before signing an employment contract, it is important to have it thoroughly vetted by an experienced employment lawyer, particularly for high-level employees for whom a contract tends to become more complex. For those finding themselves potentially limited by the terms of an existing employment contract with respect to future career prospects or compensation restrictions, the employment lawyers at Champ & Associates will provide comprehensive advice and advocate on their behalf. They will take quick action to protect their clients’ rights and secure the full amount of compensation to which they are entitled. To discuss your matter in confidence, please contact the firm by telephone at 613-237-4740 or reach out online.