And by “this,” I mean spending a lot more on lawyers to defend a breach of contract claim from a former employee who claims that the employment agreement she signed promised a guaranteed year of employment.
But you be the judge.
Here’s what a poorly drafted sentence of the contract says:
He/she is reminded of the non-competition clause guidelines, as well as, obligating associate managers and higher to one full year of employment on the management team at [the company].
The employee who signed an employment agreement that contained this poorly drafted non-competition covenant claimed that the company guaranteed her a year of employment. Specifically, she argued that the last clause, which refers to one full year of employment, unambiguously limited the company’s ability to fire her.
But there’s some context that’s missing, noted the Sixth Circuit in this opinion. First, there’s the second sentence of the non-compete, which reads:
If the one full year is not met, any benefit, including but not limited to used [paid time off], will be reversed/paid back to [the company].
So, the onus is clearly on the employee to remain with the company for one year. That’s the condition of retaining any benefits that the employee utilized.
Then, there was a separate section of the employment agreement where the employee acknowledged that she had reviewed the company’s employee handbook, which reiterates that all employees are at will. And since Kentucky law governed the contract and Kentucky is an at-will employment state, that didn’t bode well for the employee’s chances of convincing the court that she had a one-year guaranteed contract.
Indeed, the court concluded that the written contract unambiguously retains her at-will status. So, the employer prevailed on the breach of contract claim.
But, geez, it might’ve avoided all of these headaches (and litigation defense costs) had it just used a lawyer to draft the employment agreement in the first place.