“Can my employer require I sign an employment contract long after I started the job, and fire me if I refuse?”

Question: I started a new job last fall, and this spring my employer told me I had to sign an employment contract, or I would be fired. The employment contract had things in it I did not like at all. Can my employer do that?

Mary Ann
Salem, Oregon

Answer: Yes. When you become an employee, if you do not have an employment contract, you are considered an “at will” employee. That simply means that either you or your employer can end the relation any time, for any proper reason.

As a result, on any day you can say to your employer, “I want to change part of our relation, and if you do not agree to do so, I will end the relation.” You can say that – for examples, if you want higher pay, or more vacation – and your employer can say that, too – if for examples, your employer wants you to take lower pay, or sign a contract containing clauses you don’t like. It’s just like dating. That is a part of being an “at will” employee.

It is not considered improper or illegal for an employer to do that, or an employee, for that matter.

Sorry if that’s not the news you were hoping for, but it is the simple truth.

Best, Al Sklover

© 2009 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.

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