Q. Are we required to give applicants official offer letters? What does a letter have to spell out? — B.G., Texas
A. There’s no legal requirement that says you must give candidates an offer letter. However, it’s usually good idea. The offer letter should set forth the expectations of the parties, the job, the nature of the duties (a job description can be referenced or attached), the pay and benefits, the relationship (contractual, at-will, etc.), and any conditions that must be met after acceptance but before assignment (e.g. background checks, physical examination, drug test, completion of an employment application, etc.).
Don’t dash off such letters without thinking. Offer letters have legal significance and should be carefully drafted and reviewed with legal counsel. For example, make clear that benefits may change and that the actual terms are governed by the plan documents, not the offer letter.
Take care to avoid the inadvertent creation of job security. For example, some at-will states set an exception for a job offer that includes a definite time period. An offer for “an administrative assistant job for a one-year period” may create an implied contract for one year, which may be terminated only for cause during that year.
Note: Find six tips on How to Make Legally Smart Job Offers at www.theHRSpecialist.com/whitepapers.
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