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I am in the process of changing a job, and I just got the employment agreement papers - they're 10 pages long... I'm not used to such things, until now in all my jobs they had 3 pages max.

It says that I can't recruit to the company's clients for 12 months if I terminate the agreement, and they have really a lot of big companies as their clients. It also says that I'll have to pay 50k$ if I break something important from the agreement like installing illegal software on their computers. It also contains 3 months notice after 3 months of working there, which is a lot.

Is that normal in bigger companies?

closed as off-topic by PeteCon, Michael Grubey, Draken, gnat, JasonJ Feb 8 '17 at 14:05

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    which country and industry? – Dan Pichelman Feb 7 '17 at 22:56
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    Ah, IT, Europe. – user99999 Feb 7 '17 at 23:01
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    Are you sure that the agreement doesn't say you can't try and solicit their clients (not get hired by their clients). Big difference, and I've seen a few agreement papers in US where you have to agree to 12 months of no soliciting their clients or trying to convince employees to leave – Jeutnarg Feb 8 '17 at 0:52
  • @Jeutnarg the bit about being hired by the client(s) is not an unusual clause in Euro/British contracts/agreements, but I'd think twice about accepting – HorusKol Feb 8 '17 at 6:53
  • Or does it say you can't recruit others to your company's clients, i.e. you may switch but if you try to take your team with you they'll want those 50.000€ from you? Better ask a lawyer if you are not sure. Btw the "breaking the contract fine" I've seen so far was 1 month salary. (IT, Germany). – Sumyrda Feb 8 '17 at 12:20
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For the background : I am working in IT Consulting in France in a "permanent" contract, and have read several contracts in the field. I'll answer the three clauses you mentioned separately. About the 10-page : my contract was 8 or 9, iirc, so it doesn't strike me as too much.

Short story long : if you feel something is shady, consult a lawyer.

1. It says that I can't recruit to the company's clients for 12 months if I terminate the agreement[...]

I have the same agreement in my contract. This is a pretty standard clause if you are doing some kind of consulting work.

A classic case is the following : you get formed by your company, you get your first big mission for the client, client likes your work, and makes you an offer, which is generally more appealing than your current situation. He wins, because he will pay cheaper than contractual work - and you win. However, the company that previously employed you spent money on recruiting and forming you - they are protecting themselves from that.

However, it is also classic to have one of the following in the clause :

  • Upon mutual agreement, this clause is suspended.

  • If you leave and the clause is not suspended, the company will pay to make up for the constraints on your job search (5-20% of a year's income depending on the companies)

2. It also says that I'll have to pay 50k$ if I break something important from the agreement[...]

This one looks shady. If you accept this clause, it must not be open to interpretation. There has to be a clear list, so that you don't break something important by mistake. You should consult with a lawyer on this one.

That being said, even without that clause, I would refrain from installing illegal software on my profesional computer...

3. It also contains 3 months notice after 3 months of working there, which is a lot.

Depending on your country, this could be standard. A significant part of permanent contracts in France ask you for 3-month notice, once your trial period is completed.

Upon mutual agreement, this clause can often be suspended. Watch out for the wording - while 3 month is classic, it can often be reduced if the company has a suitable replacement and if you have transfered all your activities.

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The "payment if you do something wrong", especially that amount, is unacceptable. If you do something that where you can be sued for damages, then they can sue you.

The three months notice isn't unusual in Europe. And it goes both ways; if they decide to get rid of you, you are still getting paid for three months.

The non-compete is again unacceptable. You might accept a non-compete that says you can't get hired by a client that you worked for as a contractor for some time, but not more.

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    I think that's the point. They can't demand a $50.000 dollar fine for a minor misdemeanor, and they can sue for actual damages if you really screw something up. So that part is unacceptable. – Erik Feb 8 '17 at 9:28
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I cannot say how this compares to other positions in Europe, but comparing to positions I have held in the US:

3 months notice on leaving would usually be well out of line here, but most places in US are employment by mutual agreement meaning two weeks is custom but seldom actually required by either side.

A set penalty for illegal actions? I would consider that limiting your liability, not putting it high. Normal wording for things like that in my experience here would be termination and prosecution to the full extent of civil and criminal law.

Non-compete, I have normally had to sign 24-36 month agreements. 12 months would seem generously low to me.

But again, that would all be coming from a US perspective.

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