Cosmopolitan (USA)




After stressing over lord knows how many interviews, you just wanna Get. This. Done. But offer letters and contracts, which most employers use to onboard new hires, are legally binding documents meant to protect The Business™ from losses or lawsuits (or both!). Here’s how to best protect you.*

Double-check how it names you

This may sound obvious, but if you’re hired as a full-time employee, the paperwork shouldn’t refer to you as a contractor. Full-timers get sweet legal protection­s and benefits, like medical leave and health insurance coverage (which, uh, important), says Susan Crumiller, founding attorney of feminist litigation firm Crumiller P.C. Plus, if you get laid off as a “contractor,” you can’t collect unemployme­nt (unless you lost your job because of COVID-19).

Do a Ctrl or Command + F for “arbitratio­n”

Spot this word? The company is blocking you from suing them. If shit goes wrong (say, you get discrimina­ted against at work), they’d hire an arbitrator, who’s kinda like a judge but paid for by your employer, to decide the case. Aka you’re less likely to get justice. Try to negotiate this outta there. If they won’t agree, ask why.

Same for “in perpetuity”

This cute lil phrase means “forever” and could ban you from speaking publicly about your workplace. Not ideal if you later want to expose anything shady (or just write a book about your career there). Ask them to sub in something like “as long as you’re at the company.”

Sniff out “noncompete” language

These clauses could prohibit you from moving directly to a competitor or even keep ya from working in your industry for up to a year or more after you quit (this is especially true if you work in sales). Rude! If you see this, request to limit the time frame and ask them to include a list of specific companies they consider competitor­s.

Clear your side hustle

Real talk: The economy isn’t great right now, which is why you want to ensure your contract allows for extra income. If you find wording like “cannot have outside employment,” make a case for deleting it. Your employer will likely be pretty flexible on this front, Crumiller says.

Protect your big ideas

Companies sometimes phrase their contracts so they own EVERYTHING you come up with during your employment— even aha moments you have outside the office. If you spy something like “ownership of ideas,” make sure it applies only to things that are related to your job, or propose eliminatin­g that text altogether. *HEADS UP! THESE HELPFUL TIPS DON’T COUNT AS ACTUAL LEGAL ADVICE, SO SEE A LAWYER FOR MORE ~PERSONALIZ­ED~ ASSISTANCE.

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