Everyone on the Same Page: The Importance of Offer Letters According to Dallas Employment Attorney Keith Clouse

Everyone on the Same Page: The Importance of Offer Letters According to Dallas Employment Attorney Keith Clouse

PR Newswire

DALLAS, May 13, 2014 /PRNewswire-iReach/ -- It's a match made in business heaven. You've found the ideal professional to fill a critical position within your organization. You've discussed the job terms, made a verbal offer, and this person has moved from potential candidate to "The One." Now what?

It's time to officially seal the deal with an offer letter. Even in this age of technology and innovation, old school business best practices apply when hiring new employees, including this one: Get it in writing.  We have some guidelines to follow for crafting effective offer letters.

Be Specific, and Be Thorough

The offer letter provides details about the essential duties of the position. For example, if the job requires direct customer contact, that's important for a potential employee to know—especially if he's an introvert and hates talking to people.  In many cases, I've heard employees complain with comments like, "You never told me I'd have to do XYZ."  An offer letter that describes specific job duties, and can even include the actual job description, will help nip that complaint in the bud.

We've also seen other litigation issues that involve compensation plans for commissioned salespeople.  We adviseemployers to be sure to tell the employee that he or she will be paid in accordance with the company's compensation plan—and attach a copy of the plan to the offer letter. Also state that the company reserves the right to modify the comp plan at the company's discretion.

Check out Agreements with Competitors

If the company is hiring an employee from a competitor, the letter should ask the employee to confirm that he or she isn't bound by any non-compete or non-solicit agreements that could prohibit or limit the proposed employment. The employer should also instruct the employee not to bring any information from former employers, specifically including confidential information or trade secrets.

Stick to the Plan

In the interview process, a verbal offer is the start of the employment phase—an act that begins the important employer/employee relationship—and  indicates that a candidate will accept the position, thereby saving you time and effort crafting an offer letter for someone who's not a viable prospect. The pre-letter verbal discussion allows the company to tailor the offer letter to include any specific terms that have been negotiated between the company and the candidate.

If any terms have changed after the verbal agreement, the formal offer letter should contain language that it supersedes any verbal conversations or employment terms that may have been discussed (as should any subsequent employment arrangement).

Just the Facts

The offer letter should stick to the facts of the job and not make any projections for the future. To that end, be sure to include an at-will statement. Most of the time, an offer letter mentions an annual salary, but without the at-will disclaimer employees often take the position that their employment is guaranteed for at least one year. This assumption can have serious implications if there is a separation of employment. Although case law has largely rejected that argument, the battle can be avoided by the simple insertion of one sentence. Also avoid making any promissory statements such as "job security," "we're a family company," or "in the future." And, eliminate any phrases that create any guarantee for discretionary bonuses: don't promise raises, bonuses, or other perks if those aren't guaranteed.

To ensure your offer letter includes all of the necessary components, start with a checklist. A template also creates consistency and can help avoid a claim that employees are being treated differently, which is often a key element in a discrimination claim.  Consistent practices regarding offer letters can provide an employer with evidence that it treats all employees equally.

Offer letters are designed to keep everyone on the same page. To safeguard the business and help mitigate litigation issues, make it standard practice to ensure yours are the best they can be.

For more assistance with employment law issues, contact Keith Clouse at Clouse Dunn, 214.220.3888, or visit us online at www.clousedunn.com.

Media Contact: Keith Clouse, Clouse Dunn, 214.220.3888, keith@clousedunn.com

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