If someone called me today and asked me a question about my mortgage, I could pull out the paperwork and review the terms.

If someone called me today and asked me about my cell phone contract, I would be hard pressed to find any such document. I didn’t keep it. It didn’t seem to matter at the time.

Sadly, many employees in Virginia treat their employment contracts, non-disclosure agreements or confidentiality agreements like I treat my cell phone contract. They don’t recall the terms and didn’t keep a copy for their records.

So when they decide they want to leave, move, change jobs, open a business, and they want to determine what terms they agreed to, they are literally out of luck.

We then receive the following email –

Dear Dan & Lauren:
I signed a contract in 2006. I now want to leave and start my own business. I can’t find a copy however. What should I do?

Hmm. Not really a legal question. You should ask for a copy. Ask for your whole file but understand that this can be a red flag to your employer.

Or we get the following phone message:
Yes, I received a cease and desist letter from my old employer stating I signed a non-compete but am in breach. I don’t recall signing one and they didn’t provide a copy. How can I make them produce a copy?

Well, sadly, you can only make them produce a copy if they sue you for breach of contract and fail to attach the contract. They can threaten to sue all they want, and don’t have to show you anything. Sometimes, this comes down to a game of bluffing. Did you sign something? Do they still have it?

Moral of the story is simple. Keep copies of what you signed. All of it. Even silly employment agreements you believe to be non-binding or totally benign.

Lauren Ellerman
Lauren Ellerman

In 2011, Lauren Ellerman was named "Young Lawyer of the Year" by the Roanoke Bar Association for her work in the community. To speak with Lauren about your personal injury case, contact her at lellerman@frithlawfirm.com.