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A Modest Proposal: The Uniform Employment Agreement
Does anyone else feel like employment agreements are getting longer and longer? And don’t get me started on employee handbooks, employee policies, etc.
There are a lot of law firms making a lot of money by writing, re-writing, and updating these agreements and policies to keep up with all the latest developments in employment law.
As much as I favor lawyers making exorbitant amounts of money, this seems like an unnecessary drain on the profits of corporate America, which could be put to much better use. Like a nicer private jet for the CEO. So I think some serious reform is needed.
I propose the Uniform Employment Agreement. This will be a short form of agreement that employers can use to accomplish the same things they are trying to do with the ever-expanding employment agreements and policies drafted by lawyers.
The Uniform Employment Agreement provides as follows:
_______ (“Employee”) agrees to be an at-will employee of _______ (“Employer”) at a salary of $_____/month. To the fullest extent permitted by applicable law, Employee waives all legal rights against Employer and agrees that Employer can do anything it wants to Employee that is not illegal or barred by public policy.
That’s it. Nothing else. I know that employers and their lawyers will want to add more details to the agreement to make it more favorable to the employer, but why? What more could be accomplished than having the employee waive all rights? Just like deductions in the tax code, once you start adding things to the form, it’s hard to stop, and then you’ve defeated the purpose of keeping it simple.
I guess if an employer really wants to, it could add an arbitration clause or a jury trial waiver. That would still be consistent with the spirit of the Uniform Employment Agreement.
And yes, the employer could also add a confidentiality agreement and the typical Texas non-compete, but employees already have a quasi-fiduciary duty of confidentiality. And who needs a non-compete when you have the Texas Uniform Trade Secrets Act and the federal Defend Trade Secrets Act? Every employee who leaves with a customer list, i.e. every employee with a smartphone, can now be sued in federal court for misappropriation of trade secrets.
Employee advocates will object that the Uniform Employment Agreement is an outrageous over-reach by employers that should be against public policy. But I’ve solved that problem with the disclaimer: “To the fullest extent permitted by applicable law . . .”
So in those states where bleeding heart judges put employees first (basically California and Massachusetts), the employee still has recourse. And is the waiver of all rights any more one-sided than what employers are already requiring in their 20-page single-spaced employment agreements?
Zach Wolfe is a Texas trial lawyer who handles non-compete and trade secret litigation. His firm Fleckman & McGlynn has offices in Austin, Houston, and The Woodlands.
These are his opinions, not the opinions of his firm or clients, so don’t cite part of this post against him in an actual case. Every case is different, so don’t rely on this post as legal advice for your case.