Advice for Virginia’s Millennials when signing an Employment Contract (because we know you will quit your job soon to further dedicate yourself to your online startup and won’t call a lawyer when you do)
Have you heard, we older Americans like to categorize people. It’s true. We subdivide one another by age, birth year or birth decade in type-cast like fashion. No I don’t mean like the year of the monkey, or rat.
If you lived during WWII, you were part of the Greatest Generation. Children of those Great folks, Baby-Boomers. Gen X and now, if you are a young adult, 20-35, you are deemed a Millennial. The term is thankfully not as negative as some of the articles online infer.
If you believe however, what you read online, you would think as a whole these younger folks switch jobs annually, will leave work they love if forced to work a full forty hours, multi-task like maniacs, cannot live without access to multiple screens at once, and all have side businesses or “passion” projects outside of their day jobs.
Well, I have to admit – I admire someone with a passion project or side business. I also admire people who put work/life balance ahead of salary. And while I am not technically a Millennial, so far, I like where you folks are headed… so I wanted to provide some free and useful advice for my new friends. Why? Because if the gross stereotypes are true, you will never actually call a lawyer to get legal advice rather you will ask google for employment law advice, in line at the Pita Pit, or read a few paragraphs on a screen at work (OH PLEASE DON’T USE A WORK DEVICE TO GET ADVICE ON QUITTING YOUR JOB), or shove in those gnarly earbuds and listen to a lawyer for no more than six minutes.
In sum – young, energetic Virginian forced to sign an employment contract when you started work, here is what you need to know:
1. Your passion project cannot compete with your current job. That violates Virginia law (duty of loyalty)
2. Your contract is binding, including your non-compete and non-solicitation until a judge says otherwise. And, getting a judge to look at your contract usually (ok, always) requires a lawsuit and those usually require a lawyer. These kind of lawyers always cost money.
3. You can get sued for breach of contract even if you only stayed at the job for a few months.
4. Your work device and personal device should not be confused. Do not use a work device to plan your exit, new business, contact customers, etc. Very smart IT people will be hired when you leave to review this stuff. Do not use your personal device for work and if you do – ask permission to delete all work related contacts, documents etc. before you leave. Otherwise, you can be accused of violating Virginia Trade Secret Act, or Conversion (which is the civil action for stealing info that no longer belongs to you).
5. You will be in danger of violating Virginia criminal and civil law if you try to access work information online after you have quit, or been fired. Just don’t do it.
6. Right to work is a phrase that in no way, means, you have a right to work. It means you can’t be forced to join a union. That is all.
7. An exit interview is not really your opportunity to unload on your old boss. They can and will give you a negative review, and you really won’t be able to sue for defamation.
8. Announcing every single professional move online is not smart. Disable Linked In, shut up on Facebook, resist the temptation to post photos of your resume on Instagram. The more you talk online, the greater your chance of getting sued.
9. The $600 it takes to hire a lawyer to review your contract before you sign it, or after you sign it but before you leave, compete, moved, etc. Is worth it if it means you don’t get sued and have to pay a lawyer between $5,000 and $10,000 to respond to a lawsuit in the first month.
Ok. Done now. Go back to Huffington Post or slate.com and enjoy your delicious all natural pita lunch. I especially enjoy the falafel.