Sklover’s Monday Thought: Vague Words Risk Careers

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“Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”

– Groucho Marx

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Many employees believe that workplace agreements of all kinds – offer letters, employment contracts, confidentiality agreements, even stock options agreements – are way too complicated. I wholeheartedly agree. No one needs to use “heretofore” when “in the past” will do.

Clarity and simplicity are very important in reducing the risk of future arguments – or lawsuits – about what a sentence in an agreement means. Because employees rarely have the financial resources to survive an expensive litigation, they often just “give in” to near-laughable interpretations offered by their employers’ lawyers, just like the quote above. All too often, clients share with us “We all know what it was meant to mean.” Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.

If you don’t know what a word or sentence means, chances are that a juror won’t either. Don’t be afraid to ask, and don’t hesitate to ask that the simple explanation offered to you be typed into the agreement’s text. If needed, hire Legal Counsel to do that for you. Otherwise, the loss can be significant, long-lasting and career-devastating. Don’t be afraid to ask. As Leonardo da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

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