The Educated Employee (TEE)

Welcome to TEE: The Educated Employee. This blog post (TEE#0) marks the start of a series focused on educating the people who work for companies (a.k.a. “employees” – probably “you”) on the various terms of employment they may bump into during their careers.

I was inspired by two events to create this series of posts. First, the current, bubbling debate over non-compete agreements in Massachusetts has kicked my ass into gear on such topics. Education is the best fix for this challenge. Second, as I performed due-diligence on the nine companies we invested in for TechStars Boston 2009, I found a few (a few too many) unpleasant examples of unreasonable employment paperwork clauses that should never have seen the light of day – never mind the ink of an employee’s pen.

There needs to be more knowledge out there among employees.

The goal of TEE is to discuss employment-related contractual topics in a manner that provides employees useful context on what can be negotiated, what is and isn’t reasonable, and, for some of this stuff, what the heck it even means.

Employers get away with some wacky stuff because many (perhaps even most) employees appear to be clueless on these issues. An educated employee pool will mean (a) employees will get fair deals, (b) companies won’t be able to over-step, and (c) the ecosystem will operate more efficiently.

Most of these posts will apply to any type of employee. My personal experience is with software companies of varying sorts – as employee, employer, founder, executive, advisor, director, and investor – over the last 20 years. It shouldn’t matter a ton whether you’re prospective employee #38,192 at HugeCo, Inc. or whether you and your drinking buddies have just incorporated, planning to build the next great video game company (which you’re now all employees of).

I don’t claim to be a world expert on these topics. However, I’ve seen a ton of these agreements and situations over the years, from both sides of the table. I’ve certainly seen a fair bucketful of bullshit. As this is a public forum, my strong hope is that the community will chime in with comments, links, and the like to help flesh out any oversights, errors, and additional details.

The straw-man list of posts is as listed below, and will probably be presented in roughly this order. I’ve tried to put the slightly more obscure and/or less critical stuff later in the cycle.

  • Everything Is Negotiable
  • Get the Timing Right
  • IP Assignment (before / during / after)
  • Non-Disclosure
  • Non-Compete
  • Employment-At-Will
  • Non-Solicitation of Employees
  • Non-Solicitation of Customers
  • Limitations On Other Activities
  • Founder-Employee / Employee-Employee
  • Termination Not For Cause
  • Death & Disability
  • Right to Insure
  • Assignment & Succession

Disclaimer: I am not an attorney. I’m sharing my own personal experiences and opinions here; I am NOT sharing legal advice. It is your responsibility to have each and every legal contract regarding your employment reviewed by competent, educated, clueful counsel.

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