Bennett & Belfort, P.C. partner, Todd Bennett was quoted in the October 8, 2013 edition of “U.S. News and World Report.” The article, written by Arnie Fertig, entitled, “5 Things to Consider Before Accepting a Job Offer” also appeared in “IT World.”
While the article did not focus specifically on Massachusetts law, the notion of careful drafting and review of job offers rings true in Massachusetts as well.
A poorly written offer letter will not only send a negative first impression to an employee that the company is not detailed oriented and/or that it does not prioritize its employees, but an ambiguous offer letter may create litigation down the road. A prime example of this concept relates to bonuses and commissions. Ambiguity relative to how and when a bonus or commission is owed to an employee will typically be construed against the employer and in favor of the employee.
Often times, employment terms and certain benefits are subject to negotiation. The end result of this negotiation may be different than a standard company policy. Therefore, it is important to document employment terms in an offer letter.
However, while it is important to capture the core employment terms as well as terms that may be specific to a particular employee, employers should be careful about putting too much information into an offer letter, which can create additional rights that an employee may not otherwise have.
Massachusetts is an “at will” employment state, meaning that unless there is an employment contract that states otherwise, either party may terminate the employment relationship at any time and for any lawful reason. So, while it is important to clarify essential terms of employment, unless otherwise intended, it is also important to make clear that employment is not for any specified length and that it can be terminated by either party at any time. A well written employment offer letter can and should clearly outline all essential terms, while making it clear that no contractual rights are being created and that employment remains at will.