The case for written employment contracts

The case for written employment contracts

Dec 01, 2006

I'm an associate, and my boss recently changed the way my production is assigned—not in my favor. What recourse do I have?

"The first step in all dispute resolution is for you and your boss to meet to see whether you can resolve the issue," says Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Dr. Karl Salzsieder, JD, a consultant with Salzsieder Consulting and Legal Services in Kelso, Wash. He says there may be an intimidation factor given that the disagreement is between associate and boss, in which case he recommends finding a reasonable neutral party to meet with the two of you.

"If you can't resolve the issue," says Dr. Salzsieder, "before the formalities of hiring an attorney, you could hire a consultant to clarify the issues if there is just a misunderstanding of the intent or clarity of the contract."

If that doesn't work, "the next step is to decide whether you can prove to a third party—a judge, mediator, or arbitrator—what the original agreement was," Dr. Salzsieder says. If you don't have an employment contract in writing, the situation becomes tougher, because you're relying on an oral employment agreement, he says. What exactly was the agreement, and how long was it good for? Are there witnesses that can support your point of view—or your boss'?

Dr. Karl Salzsieder
"An employment contract in writing is very important and beneficial to both parties," he says. "It's best if you have an attorney draw up the contract, especially one familiar with the veterinary profession." Dr. Salzsieder says some corporate veterinary companies ask associates to sign a letter of intent, with all the details regarding the employee agreement being included in the employee manual.