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During contract negotiations I discussed benefits with my employer, and they promised to give me:

  1. all the tools I need
  2. paid travel to conferences of my choosing

I want to make sure that these are kept, but I understand they are difficult to write in to the contract, but I want to make sure that these promises are kept.

How can I ensure that verbal agreements aren't forgotten if they aren't written in to the contract?

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    These types of verbal promises are NEVER enforceable, and trying to get it in writing during contract negotiations is probably going to leave a negative impression (e.g., you do not trust what they are saying to you). At the end of the day, it all comes down to budget and your manager's discretion. – David Fleeman Dec 17 '13 at 18:28
  • Hey user, I think this is a great question, so I'm going to give it a bit of an edit in the hopes of getting it reopened. If you think I missed something important or it won't get you useful information, please feel free to improve it through an edit of your own! Thanks again for the question, and welcome to The Workplace! – jmac Dec 17 '13 at 23:59
  • The interviewer can't really say no to those questions in the interview "do you provide the tools your staff need to get their jobs done?"... "NO". Really? You thought they might say that? – Móż Dec 18 '13 at 2:09
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    There is saying, "A verbal contract is only as good as the paper it is written on". – Simon O'Doherty Dec 18 '13 at 15:37
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    @SimonO'Doherty: Giving credit ... "An oral contract is as good as the paper it's written on." -Samuel Goldwyn (although for some reason I thought it was P.T. Barnum) – GreenMatt Dec 18 '13 at 16:38
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I assume, that these verbal promises are not really enforceable. Can I make them enforceable by asking the company to put them into the contract? How could a possible wording could look like?

Your assumption is mostly correct. Verbal agreements can be legally binding [I AM NOT A LAWYER, BUT I DO WATCH JUDGE JUDY OCCASIONALLY]. But such agreements are very, very difficult to prove [from personal experience] and thus to enforce.

Anything written into a contract can be binding and thus "enforceable".

The wording could be as simple as

  • "Company agrees to give user12875 all the tools he/she needs."
  • "Company agrees to provide paid travel to the conferences of user12875's choosing"

Since the phrases "all the tools needed" (who gets to determine what is "needed"? can you demand 3000 expensive tools?) and "paid travel of your choosing" (paid for what? car fare? first-class airline ticket? can you go to 100 conferences?) are very ambiguous, you would be smart to enlist the aid of a lawyer in crafting easier-to-enforce wording here.

While it's always possible to negotiate anything into a contract, I'd be shocked if any real company would actually agree to such open-ended terms.

I suspect you'd have better luck either just expecting reasonableness (and thus not writing it into the contract at all), the "local standard" (as Bill Leeper indicated in his answer), or negotiating a specific list of tools, a specific list of conferences, and the amounts you would expect the company to pay. Again, no assurances that the company would agree, but I suspect you'd have a better chance that way.

I know in my department I'm often willing to grant exceptions on an informal basis. I want to help my good team members in any way I can, but I don't want to formalize such exceptions, since they might then be expected by others.

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  • It's also really dependent on some of the management staff. I'm related to an HR manager. I've been told stories where someone negotiated something (fairly negligible, needed week of vacation earlier because of time of year hired and some family things) HR manager was kind enough to write it up for them, but the Manager over the department refused vehemently "Everyone has to be treated equally!!!!" HR Manager Struck it from the written agreement, manager signed, and then later on let the guy have his week of vacation early (probably without thinking twice). – PsychoData Feb 21 '14 at 23:01
  • Sometimes they see it as everyone MUST BE THE SAME OR ELSE. When often it doesn't really matter in the long run if he took his week of vacation in February or when it would normally have been earned in June, but it meant a lot to the employee there. – PsychoData Feb 21 '14 at 23:02
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No one has mentioned this yet, and it seems rather obvious but is worth saying.

Make sure they get written down somewhere. You may not be able to capture them in a contract and get them "enforced" (see Joe's answer).

But having them written down somewhere with your hiring manager agreeing to them is considerably better than "we talked about these during the interview, what gives now!" if/when you end up needing to bring them up in the future. Even a simple email confirmation can accomplish this.

Most people generally don't like to go back on their word if they've committed to something which is documented. It's a lot easier to change things which were vaguely discussed verbally, but saying "actually I can't offer what I did confirm via email and you just forwarded me" has a lot more emotional resistance to most people in saying "no."

It may not guarantee anything but can at least help your manager be more motivated to keep those unofficial commitments.

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  • +1 for the simple mail. I got someone who almost didn't get something from HR if it weren't for a simple mail he kept. – Walfrat Sep 1 '16 at 6:43
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There is no point in trying to make these legally enforceable. There are two reasons for this.

  1. The 'provide you with all the tools you need' is both open to interpretation and already mandated. For example, if you are a software developer you could technically do your job with a compiler and a text editor - but I'm pretty sure you mean you want to get tools that will let you do your job in a way you would find efficient, such as a modern IDE. If you were really not given a minimal toolset to do your job you would already have legal recourse. So an agreement to this is not worth anything.
  2. No company will give you the unlimited option you want for conferences, because you might choose a conference that cost them tens of thousands of dollars to send you to. Also, economic conditions and possibly your job description might change in such a way that it no longer makes sense to send you to conferences, so no company will want to be bound to this condition.

What I do recommend is that you 1) specify the tools that yhou think you need for the job and 2) get something in writing saying that they intend to provide this and the conference visits. It won't be enforceable but it will give you some ammunition if they just arbitrarily decide not to do either.

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It is probably too late for you to do this, but it might be helpful for others.

If these statements are brought up during the interviewing process, try and find out more details from the individual contributors you may be interviewed by during the day. Ask specifically what kind of tools they are provided with, what kind of computers, etc. As for the conference promise, try and determine what conferences people have been too. Just ask. What conferences did people go to, or if talking with an individual contributor ask them what conferences they have been to recently.

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Can I make them enforceable by asking the company to put them into the contract?

Yes.

But the better question might be whether or not this is preferable.

How could a possible wording could look like?

This is probably out of scope for this site. A lawyer is probably the best person to go to for this answer.

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Get it in writing. You can ask them to email you the notes you discussed as proof, or you can write the notes yourself and have them sign.

However, they may still decide to not follow though on their promises. At this point you would know they work in bad faith, and you would look for a new job. Essentially the contract is broken.

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Negotiations/promises prior to a contract whether written in a contract or not CAN be enforced it just depends on the state you live in. As far as writing it into the contract, I would put in an addendum as the last page of the contract stating what promises were made from the hiring manager/company. But I would also be a heck of a lot more specific when stating the promises. Saying "all the tools I need" is way to general and is up for individual interpretation. So it would be better to state something like, "Company will allow employee to attend and pay for all relevant conferences, pay employee X amount in travel expenses, give employee all updated software as it is released relevant to their specific job etc, etc. If somewhere down the road you find that some "tool" you needed you neglected to name specifically in the contract, then you will have to just forget about it.

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Keep minutes of the meeting (from memory in your case). Have them signed off by you future employer and keep a copy.

At least where I live verbal promises are part of the contract (unless the contract specifially says that things are valid only when written down). If your employer ignores his promises on purpose your relationship has probably detoriated to a point where you should rather leave (or will be fired) in any case, insofar "enforceable" is a relative term, but keeping minutes will at least make sure that stuff is not accidentally forgotten. And minutes allow both parties to be less definite/more verbose than the actual contract while still conveying the general scope of your agreements.

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    Every employment contract I've seen states the contract is the entire agreement. – Andy Feb 22 '14 at 3:34

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