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Phrase job offers carefully to avoid confusion, disputes

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in Employment Law,Firing,Human Resources

A well-written job-offer letter can clear up miscommunication about the compensation and job duties, plus it gives candidates a sense of security when resigning from their current job to join your company.

The problem: Imprecise wording in job-offer letters can come back to haunt you. Fired employees may try to use the letter as proof of wrongful discharge.

That's why you must carefully draft such letters to avoid creating an employment contract for a specific time or limiting your organization's right to terminate the person.

Create a standing "employment at-will" clause that managers can include in job-offer letters, employee manuals and employment applications. Send annual reminders of employees' at-will status in paycheck envelopes. And make sure employment offers are run through one single person at your small company, to make sure candidates aren't being promised long-term relationships.


Recent case: A wrongful-discharge case revolved around stock options and benefit schedules in a job-offer letter. The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the employer. The reason: When hired, the employee was given the company's employee handbook, which included a signature page specifying that he was "not hired for a specified term" and that he was being employed at the company's will. (Cochran v. Quest Software Inc., No. 02-2326, 1st Circuit)

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