Confidentiality and Trade Secret Protection
Although state and federal law offer some protection to businesses seeking to safeguard their confidential and trade secret information, these protections should be expanded through the use of confidentiality, non-solicitation, and non-disclosure agreements. The purpose of requiring employees and independent contractors to sign such agreements is to preserve valuable trade secrets including marketing strategies, unique customer purchasing habits, price lists, methodologies, and manufacturing processes. We help employers protect themselves from unfair competition by drafting enforceable non-disclosure agreements, non-solicitation agreements, confidentiality agreements, invention assignment agreements, and others.
Employee Handbooks and Personnel Policies
Employee handbooks document the terms and conditions of employment and articulate the rights and responsibilities of both employer and employee. A well-drafted employee handbook educates employees about the expectations of workplace conduct and reduces the employer’s risk of lawsuits. When an employee handbook accurately reflects the employer’s policies and practices, as well as current applicable law, it can be invaluable in situations requiring employee discipline or termination. We customize employee handbooks to reflect our clients’ unique personnel policies and employment practices, while ensuring compliance with all applicable federal, state, and local law.
Legally sound employment agreements are the basis of a good working relationship and serve as a deterrent to misunderstandings and future lawsuits. Some employment-related agreements are required by California law, such as commission agreements. Where an employment agreement is not required, it is often recommended to identify the terms of the employment relationship and to avoid claims of unintended verbal promises or inconsistent terms. Having a well-written employment agreement is also helpful when taking disciplinary action or implementing a termination. Through the use of clear, concise language in employment agreements that comply with applicable employment laws, employers can protect themselves from potential claims.
Executive compensation programs are an important factor with regard to motivating and retaining key employees. Recent Wall Street reforms and scrutiny by the IRS have increased the need to be aware of the complex regulations that govern these arrangements. We offer companies solutions for compensation and executive benefits programs with clearly defined performance goals, taking into account the practical and legal ramifications, including tax effects, employment law, corporate law and accounting standards.
Independent Contractor Agreements
Businesses continue to rely on independent contractors and need to be cognizant of the constantly changing rules and regulations that govern this worker designation. We start with an initial analysis to ensure the worker’s status as an independent contractor is accurate under current law. Once confirmed, a comprehensive independent contractor agreement should be implemented to clarify the rights and obligations of each party including the treatment of compensation for tax purposes, obligations regarding insurance and expenses, and the responsibilities of the independent contractor. Having a written independent contractor agreement is imperative in the event of a claim by the worker or an audit by the Employment Development Department, Internal Revenue Service, California Franchise Tax Board, or other government agency regulating contractor status.
Employers and employees may enter into a separation agreement that establishes the rights and responsibilities of both parties at the end of their working relationship. A severance agreement that contains enforceable release language can significantly reduce the chance of a lawsuit brought by a former employee claiming harassment, discrimination, or other causes of action, and serves as a deterrent against future claims. We employ strategies to maximize the protections available to an employer when severance is offered to an employee. A good severance agreement will not only contain the maximum releases in favor of the employer and its related parties, but it will address other terms such as an acknowledgment of the payment of all wages due, confidentiality of the terms of the agreement where permissible, and the continued protection of proprietary information after the employment relationship terminates.