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Modifying Employment Agreements?

Cliff posted more than 10 years ago | from the adjusting-the-small-print dept.

Businesses 728

An anonymous reader asks: "I am starting a new job, after months of unemployment. While out of work, I started a technology related business. I do not believe there is a conflict in the services provided by this business and the job I am taking. As has been standard with previous employers, I have been asked to sign an agreement that states in part that I am to disclose to the company anything that I create wether or not during company time, and wether or not it relates to the company. I also must agree that these same creations or inventions become the sole property of the company. I would like to change the wording to only include those creations, inventions and other Intellectual Property that is the direct result of work performed for the company, involved use of company property, and/or was created or invented during paid hours spent working for the company. What success or failure have other Slashdot readers had when dealing with wide reaching employment agreements such as this? How did you approach management with your modifications?"

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Don't forget... (-1)

SCO$699FeeTroll (695565) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228520) pay your $699 licensing fee you cock-smoking teabaggers.

Get my drift? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8228721)

Femdom, pussy, pain...

I just love Kazaa. An inexhaustible source for unimaginable porn.

3 words: HIRE A LAWYER. (5, Insightful)

frenetic3 (166950) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228522)

yeah, yeah, nobody likes dealing with lawyers. but trying to fudge a contract by yourself is a foolish proposition, especially an NDA. and you can guarantee that a) your employer will freak out initially -- they don't like ANYONE touching their NDAs and jeopardizing their precious IP and b) you'll probably screw up the wording and their legal team will reject your changes on that basis alone.

and if things you develop outside of work really matter to you, and you plan on developing something significant, it's worth the couple grand to get solid advice and contractual clauses that will hold up in a lawsuit. it makes sense and is worth the one time cost to protect yourself and your intellectual assets just like you'd insure your car or house in case of some unlikely disaster.

in fact, i'd ALWAYS recommend having a lawyer review any employment contract before signing, just in case. some clauses in employment contracts can be pretty sneaky or draconian but sadly most people just gloss over them and look where to sign.

i'm not a lawyer but am damn happy that i had one look over/amend my employment contracts before signing.

hope this helps.


Re:3 words: HIRE A LAWYER. (5, Insightful)

greysky (136732) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228633)

I would be hesitant to hire a lawyer unless we're talking about a top-level job (IE: CTO, Director of Technology, etc). If you're going in for a developer position and bring a lawyer in, then they're either going to go on to the next candidate or else bring their lawyer(s) in to the mix.

Re:3 words: HIRE A LAWYER. (5, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228656)


have had modified EVERY employment contract I have ever seen.

these things are changeable and you do NOT want to work there if they are not.

always ALWAYS have the clause stricken that pertains to your own time. and or have a clause added that clearly states that your time is YOUR TIME. same as any ideas, inventions, lottery winnings done on your own time with your own resources.

It will cost you from $60.00 to $240.00 to get this done by a lawyer.

Re:3 words: HIRE A LAWYER. (5, Interesting)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228686)

I had a job where I was handed a company cell phone in my first seconds on the job, but I was not handed a company handbook during my first full week on the job, to the point that I had to write an e-mail to my boss and CC in the human resources chief to actually get a copy handed to me.

I found it hard to believe my boss would let me walk around for a week with a company cell phone and not give me a copy of the acceptable use policy. I quickly realized that I was being set up for failure... and got myself out of that company as soon as I could.

Re:3 words: HIRE A LAWYER. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8228738)

Perhaps they were testing to see if you were a responsible adult without having to specifically told what responsible means.

Ask "President": +1, Patriotic (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8228705)

George W. Bush [] . He knows a lot about "modifying" past statements about his "war" in Iraq. Of course, if he and the rest of his gang were required to testify before a grand jury. they would all be charged with and sentenced for perjury.

Kilgore Trout

Re:3 words: HIRE A LAWYER. (0, Troll)

wxfield (44862) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228706)

Frenetic3 has some good advice.

So you really think this company really will involve its resources to take your intellectual property - is it that important to their future in business to try to take your plumbing business (or whatever) away from you? least you have a job. Sign the stupid thing, take them for what they are worth before they export your job to India.

Like what? (1)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228712)

i'm not a lawyer but am damn happy that i had one look over/amend my employment contracts before signing.

What changes did your lawyer make to your contract?

Hire a Lawyer but You May Not Like the Results (5, Interesting)

vwpau227 (462957) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228725)

I was in a similar situation to what the original poster has mentioned, I had a written contract that the employer wanted signed that didn't fit with my expectations. I did what was suggested by the parent, and hired a lawyer to do the changes.

The problem was, the lawyer took one look at the contract and saw other points in the contract that needed to be changed, like getting paid for holidays in addition to the time worked and being able to book vacation periods at a reasonable time. A lot of work needed to be done to bring this all into line.

By the time I took the changed contract back to the employer and had them look at it, the employer decided that it wasn't worth it to sign a non-standard contract. In the end, the employer and I were not able to agree on this and other issues, so the contract was left unsigned.

As the parent notes, the situation is that when a change like this is proposed, there is always a backlash from the employer. But there are good reasons for this, since there are a number of issues that are raised. One, for example, is that if you were given the right to work with your own projects outside of work, then others may want the same privilege as well. Also, others may want to have other changes to the contract as well, and they will point to you as the precedent for this.

So I guess the bottom line of this is that to hire a lawyer to work with you on the contract is a good piece of advice, but keep in mind that you may not like the results.


Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8228524)

first post (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8228526)


Re:first post (0, Troll)

ZZT2 (681093) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228670)


Re:first post (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8228703)

Crap, forgot to check anonymous.

Get a lawyer! (5, Insightful)

American AC in Paris (230456) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228533)

You're going to get a lot of tips and suggestions in this thread, many of which will be quite good.

Regardless of whatever advice pops up in this thread, though, the one thing that you absolutely, positively must do is consult a lawyer. Take the tips you pick up here and run it past said lawyer; they'll advise you as to whether or not they'll work and will convert the advice into legalese for you. If you can't afford a lawyer, track down the family member/friend that is a lawyer and ask/beg for their help.

Employment contracts are very, very important things that businesses take seriously. If you're not careful, you'll put yourself in a position where you could be sued without even realizing you'd done so, which is doubleplusungood. Get a lawyer to help mitigate this risk.

Assume that you're just as good at revising some lawyer's contract as you'd expect that lawyer to be at revising your code. Act accordingly.

Re:Get a lawyer! (5, Interesting)

Draknor (745036) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228628)

Assume that you're just as good at revising some lawyer's contract as you'd expect that lawyer to be at revising your code. Act accordingly.

Wow... that's a wonderful analogy! Having the geek ego that I do, I often assume I can understand just about anything - the power of logical analysis is applicable everywhere, right? However, eventually I've realized that every profession / specialty has its own sets of assumptions and terminology that must be learned, and in the legal profession that set is HUGE. So yeah, get a lawyer - someone who knows that profession.

Re:Get a lawyer! (2, Insightful)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228690)

Assume that you're just as good at revising some lawyer's contract as you'd expect that lawyer to be at revising your code. Act accordingly.

Well said. you'd have my mod points if I had'em


Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8228536)

Dean's gone. Support Clark! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8228782)

Kerry's a fucking slackjawed Jimmy Carter clone.

Yes, GWB has gotta go, but do you want to have a weak president instead? No! So, go forth and vote for the General!

Kinda OT: Unemployment Benefits (4, Interesting)

Alan Livingston (209463) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228539)

You didn't cash on unemployment checks while you started this business, did you?

Re:Kinda OT: Unemployment Benefits (4, Informative)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228646)

I have only received unemployment in Texas, so that is the only State I know about.

In Texas unemployment benifits are adjusted if a person is self-employed based, on profits.

If he is just starting it is unlikely he is turning a profit.

It is unlikely that there is any confilict.


3 Words: (0, Redundant)

SparafucileMan (544171) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228540)


Re:3 Words: (1)

rock_climbing_guy (630276) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228661)

right... and pay for it with unemployment checks.

Don't work in IT (1, Offtopic)

scumbucket (680352) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228543)

It's just one more reason I'm becoming completely unmotivated to work in corporate I.T.

I've been an "I.T. guy" ever since my first job, and frankly, I banked on "PCs and DOS/Windows solutions" as the stuff one needed to keep up with to retain a decent job.

Somewhere along the way (I think roughly around the time Microsoft started pushing Active Directory integrated with Exchange 2000, but that's far from the ONLY factor), I started becoming disillusioned with the whole thing. I had always tinkered with Linux as a curiousity and fun "alternative OS" to use at home - but couldn't spark any interest in it where I worked.

I decided to "rock the boat" a little bit, building Linux-based thin clients PCs out of old, depreciated systems being taken out of service, and asking employees to try using them on a "trial" basis. I had few complaints, and got most of the ones I did have ironed out in short order. (Mostly, people whining about needing support for their scroll wheel mice, stuff like that.)

I think it threatened my co-workers though, who were die-hard "MS only!" people. My boss was "on the fence" about the whole project, basically not wanting to stop me from experimenting - yet uneasy about it disrupting his little "happy family" of I.T. employees.

Next thing I knew, I was let go. By this time, the job market was quickly drying up, and I spent a long time collecting unemployment checks, and trying to find another, similar job to no avail.

I finally found work with Apple Mac systems. Wow, what a difference! Problem is, it's a small mom and pop place that's hanging on by a shoestring. My hours got cut back to part-time recently, because he couldn't make ends meet otherwise. It's really disappointing more folks haven't yet discovered the things Apple has done/is doing with OS X.

But anyway, here in the present, I see the I.T. job market SLOWLY starting to open back up, but when I read the job descriptions, my stomach churns. I don't even want to apply for most of them! It just seems like signing up to administer hundreds (or thosands?) of users on Exchange email while helping develop roll-outs of the latest MS technologies is like signing one's death warrant.

Obviously, there are still plenty of I.T. folks out there happy and willing to take on these jobs, risks and all. But maybe all my experience has made me too jaded? I'm about to throw in the towel. I don't have nearly enough "real world experience" using the OS's I see as superior solutions (Solaris, Linux, BSD, etc.) to get a decent paying job supporting/administering them. I spent too much time in the MS camp for that. I think I can handle the Mac OS X support quite well, but nobody's hiring for that. MS's current offerings give me the creeps....

Re:Don't work in IT (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8228664)

If you had time to experiment with things like this, then your department was probably over-staffed, especially considering the business climate of the last few years. I'm all for on the job training, but you have to be aware of money and what it costs to the business. How much time did you spend on this project, and how much noise did you make doing it? Note that getting complaints about mouse wheels not working means users were unsatisfied and complaining, devaluing your efforts. Users are resistant to change, and so you did rock the boat.

Re:Don't work in IT (1)

haystor (102186) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228757)

Don't give up hope. There are lots of companies where the superior may be considered a Unix system, but the majority of support is still MS stuff just because that majority of people are in sales/marketing/management/wherever.

What's more important, a job or your pride? (2, Informative)

garcia (6573) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228545)

You feel free to ask them to make those changes to your agreement. You also feel free to start sending out your resumes to other companies... It is highly unlikely that they are going to allow you to make these changes and keep your job.

Whether you like that or not, it is likely the way it will be. Sure, some people would say, "well I wouldn't want to work for a draconian company like that anyway." Some others would say, "I have been unemployed for months, perhaps I should take the job and swallow my pride."


Re:What's more important, a job or your pride? (3, Interesting)

ultraw (99206) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228726)

You feel free to ask them to make those changes to your agreement. You also feel free to start sending out your resumes to other companies... It is highly unlikely that they are going to allow you to make these changes and keep your job.

I think you somehow missed the point here. He is asking if it is possible to add a suplement to a NEW contract, so no sending out resumes, no "keeping" the job,...

As for me, here in Belgium, I have a company together with some other chaps. My current work is in the line of what the company is doing. I discussed this with my employer, and no problems were found, as long as I keep both of them really separate. No logging in to servers, not answering phones,... Fair deal.

I always argumented this as "you asked for people who dare to take a risk, want to work hard and have some insight into business and running a business". If you don't score with that, the HR-guy is afraid that you might take his job.

Re:What's more important, a job or your pride? (3, Insightful)

frenetic3 (166950) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228732)

Whether you like that or not, it is likely the way it will be. Sure, some people would say, "well I wouldn't want to work for a draconian company like that anyway." Some others would say, "I have been unemployed for months, perhaps I should take the job and swallow my pride."
The proposition that it's that black and white is false [] .

If you are respectful and have a lawyer propose a reasonable amendment saying that you own the IP to non-competing home projects unrelated to work, they probably won't give a fuck and will have their legal team clear it. They have better things to worry about -- from their perspective they just don't want some asshole employee taking their secrets, leaving, and competing with them -- but do expect that any changes to an NDA/noncompete will be seen as threatening at first.

If it is the case they're draconian idiots then yeah you'll probably want to move on.

But in most cases, they probably don't care, and whoever is hiring you didn't draft the NDA in the first place (hell, it's probably a safe bet they haven't even read it -- they just paid some lawyer to cover their ass.)


Re:What's more important, a job or your pride? (1)

ElleyKitten (715519) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228734)

I think it's not so much his pride that is the issue, but the issue of either stopping his own business he's been working on or risk being sued for things he created on his own time. Still, I can't imagine they'ld let him change the agreement when presumably they have plenty of other sheep that have signed it and plenty more potential sheep that would.

Re:What's more important, a job or your pride? (2, Informative)

arkanes (521690) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228772)

You've got a good point but if you're going to swallow your pride, maybe Dennys or Safeway is hiring... you've got to remember the long term too, and unless you've got alot of faith that this company is going to be around (and keep you around) for the long term, making sure that the work you're doing in your own remains yours is a good idea.

Re:What's more important, a job or your pride? (1)

TheViciousOverWind (649139) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228775)

I would say, that it's probably unlikely that they wouldn't change the wording (Except if it's a huge (read: unflexible) place), since it costs lots of $$$ and time to find the right employee, and they would have to go through the process again. And if the new wording hits the original meaning with the contract better than the old one, there certainly shouldn't be a problem. (Disclaimer: I'm from Denmark, where we have those kind contracts too, but employers ain't made of stone)

But it all comes down to you deciding what to accept beforehand.
- You certainly won't be rejected just for asking if the wording can be changed, so it's probably all up to you.

Actively Engaging Employers (5, Interesting)

yintercept (517362) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228778)

Some companies appreciate your taking the time to negotiate and read through all parts of the employment agreement. It shows that you are actively engaged in the process.

I've actually had companies make major changes to their non-compete and non-disclosure agreements after my review of the forms. It probably depends on the firm and the lifecycle of the firm. I've worked in a few companies where the corporate lawyer was thrilled to sit down with an employee and talk seriously about the contract.

Conversely, if the hr clerk, or whoever you talk to, feel they have no control, they will resent what you are doing.

Pride != Money (1)

hawkstone (233083) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228781)

I don't think this is related to pride. He has an actual business on the side. Businesses make money. Since he is self employed, what he does for his other company is in danger of being considered "given" to the new company. This could result in his new employer receiving money from licenses granted by his old company.

Pride is not the same thing gobs of cash.

inabilty to spell the word "whether" (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8228546)

"...anything that I create wether or not during company time, and wether or not it relates..."

What jackass hired a mental midgit like you who is unable to spell a simple word like "whether"? Companies must really be scraping the bottom of the barrel to be hiring idiots like you. No wonder you were unemployed for months!

Re:inabilty to spell the word "whether" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8228677)

What jackass hired a mental midgit like you who is unable to spell a simple word like "whether"?

You misspelled midget.

What's the company name? (5, Funny)

EriDay (679359) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228549)

Sounds like they're going to have an opening.

Re:What's the company name? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8228590)

Oh man this is the perfect goatse troll setup ("Here's an opening you might want to take a look at..."), but it's down! DAMN YOU!

Re:What's the company name? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8228764)

Yeah, the company name is SCO.
Still interested?

Forget it. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8228552)

Unless you are of such high value to your new employer, I would doubt they are going to spend dollars money on their lawyer just to suit you.

My suggestion (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8228569)

You should skip the job, move back into your parents' house and write open sores software with copyright assigned to FSF.

Then such questions would not trouble you.

Good luck (3, Insightful)

slash-tard (689130) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228571)

Imagine your boss having to choose between hiring you and someone else who may only be slightly less qualified. The other person doesnt care about the contract but you do. Your boss also isnt the one making these legal agreements and in most companies has a snowballs chance in hell of getting them changed.

Odds are if you make it an issue they will go with the other person unless you really stand out.

Re:Good luck (5, Insightful)

Graelin (309958) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228740)

I am a boss. I hire people. It doesn't matter to me. In this case, if I knew the NDA was particularly draconian as this one appears, I would probably favor the person who recognizes the fault and attempts to have it corrected. There is nothing wrong with it. After all, if you don't stand up for yourself nobody else will.

Re:Good luck (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228796)

But at the same time a developer who is cautious in regards to contracts is also more likely to be aware of IP and liability... I know i would rather have an employee who looked at his/her contract before signing it, Also someone who looks at their contract is less likely to be a problem in the future... changing the contract now is better than having a violation of the contract which lets out trade secrets to competitors.

Present them with your own contract rider... (4, Insightful)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228575)

First, it's going to be rather clear that your company was not created during your employment with this new employer. Afterall, it exists now and you haven't started there.

I'd expect that your new employer should already know of your personal business because it should be listed on your resume. Therefore, when they ask you to sign a contract saying that everything you create belongs to the company, you should ask for a specific rider that acknowledges that you have the outside interest, and that the company is aquiring no rights to that property. In exchange, you'll offer to promise that you will not work on that project while on company time or using company resources without permission. You can frame it in the terms of a disclosure as required by their contract of something you have created and will continue to create that has no relation to the company.

If the company thinks that just putting you on salary means they own your mind 24/7, then you likely don't want to accept their offer anyway. Unless you've omitted all mention of this project on you resume, they should have known you have it and intend to keep it. If they think by hiring you they're going get ownership of your small company...

Oh, and since the company no doubt had a lawyer create the agreement they're asking you to sign, you should have a lawyer create the document you're going to ask them to sign...

Re:Present them with your own contract rider... (4, Insightful)

haystor (102186) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228666)

Of course, if a company pays you hourly and then claims everything 24/7 you could always bill them for 24/7 after the fact.

Anything you create? (5, Funny)

Boing (111813) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228577)

You could just teach them the error of their over-litigious ways by giving them the "rights" to the next thing you "create" after some cheap mexican food and seven cups of coffee.

Lawyers (1, Redundant)

October_30th (531777) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228584)

I would like to change the wording

Hire a damn good lawyer or look for another job. Employers can afford to be choosers these days...

Different Employment Agreement (4, Interesting)

dsojourner (695863) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228587)

When I just started a new job (simillary after being "excessed" from my previous company), the agreement I was offered clearly asked me only to identify things which relate to the companies business. That may be a California thing -- I think California restricts the claim a company can lay to it's employee's ideas.

But at any rate, there are companies which will agree to what you wish to ask.


3 other words (5, Funny)

buus (698205) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228591)

and a pony.... I want a pony as well. I think you are about as likely to get a pony as you are to get a change in the standard employment agreement.

Don't fill it out. (2, Interesting)

djweis (4792) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228592)

I got a similar form the first day of my last job. I didn't hand it in for two years. They asked again the day I was planning on quitting to start my own company. They refused to believe that it was a coincidence, but I never did sign one.

Exceptions to Agreements (5, Informative)

greysky (136732) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228593)

I was hired on at a place a few years back while I was in the middle of developing my own software product, and found that the hiring/HR staff were quite open to adding an exception for the program I was working on to the contract. Granted, that's not as free as what you're talking about, but they raised no objections. If you have the skills that they want, most employers are fairly open when it comes to stuff like that, as long as you're not dealing with lawyers in the negotiation process.

How replaceable are you? (5, Insightful)

The_Rippa (181699) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228597)

The question I would be asking is how would the react if you asked them to change it? Custom-tailoring an NDA to you raises a lot of issues that an employer doesn't want to deal with. It sets a precedent that they probably don't want to deal with either. Would it just be easier for them to find someone else to fill the spot then to bend over backwards to curtail your needs?

Re:How replaceable are you? (2, Informative)

LostCluster (625375) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228746)

But this isn't the NDA portion of the contract he's objecting to. He doesn't want the right to talk about the company's IP, what he wants is to make sure the line between his IP and the company's IP remains solid, which is something very reasonable to ask for.

Stop lying for God's sake! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8228794)

All this crap about most employers...

Until you vent your opinions preface it with "my guess is that..."

Meanwhile having delt with upwards of 20 companies on this issue I can say that MY experience is that they are usually amenable to change. Just ask.

Don't worry, your new job is being outsourced! (-1)

cornholio_hehehe (739161) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228599)

he-he dude -- haven't you learned yet - it's gone!

Get a lawyer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8228600)

Quite frankly, you're being screwed.
No one in their right mind would sign a contract that forces them to hand over all work created outside company time.

These terms fail in California (4, Interesting)

OldAndSlow (528779) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228601)

Last time I changed jobs, I went to work for a company headquartered in CA. They have a similar "all your ideas belong to us" terms of employment agreement. They also say that the laws of CA govern the agreement, and the CA courts have held that only work related inventions can be claimed by the employer.

IANAL, etc. The point is that you need a lawyer. This stuff varies by state.

Never had a problem (5, Insightful)

signe (64498) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228602)

I've done this several times now, with large employers and small, and never had a problem. Of course, if your situation allows, getting a lawyer to assist you is not a bad idea. But I usually just mark up the text of the agreement (you can usually get the meaning that you want by removing a couple words, making the changes minimal), initial the changes and sign the document, make a copy for my own records, and send it in.

Generally, all I do is delete a word or two to change it from saying that they get the rights to everything, regardless of whether or not it was on company time or company equipment, to saying that they get the rights only if it was on company time or equipment.


They normally don't care (4, Informative)

UVABlows (183953) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228608)

I have changed a couple. Tell them what you are changing and why, don't just change it, sign it and turn it in. If you talk to your future boss about it, they usually understand and can talk to HR about it and HR won't normally want to fight with another department about it.

As long as you don't add so much that the HR people think they have to consult the company attorney, they will just ok it. Consulting the attorney means work for them, so they won't want to do it, and as long as you keep it short they won't care. They just want all their paperwork back.

Re:They normally don't care (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8228786)

Although I have seen the "dissappearing ink" trick used on these..

A smart fellow here invented somethign that was not even work related and was impossible to be designed on our resources. they tried to take ownership, he asked to see a copy of the contract that states ownership and there was NO signature or date by him.

he used a disappearing ink pen to sign all the company's forms that were "questionable" the ink was there long enough to satisfy the HR lady, and she filed them away...

clever guy, he quit right after that wild mess...

Arrangement of Matter (1)

verloren (523497) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228609)

Part of my agreement was to notify the company of any arrangement of matter created during my time with them. Given that this is ludicrous (I would fall into a recursive loop of telling them about the report I was writing about the report I was writing about the report...) and that they have no means of allowing for such reporting, I figured that thos part of the contract wouldn't stand up to formal legal scrutiny and would void.

But then I don't have other jobs, or ideas, so it's not too important.

I Just said No (5, Informative)

wsxyz (543068) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228613)

When faced with the same situation about 5 years ago, I simply said "I'm not going to sign this".

I then had a talk with our human resources person and explained why I didn't want to sign it. The company then worked with me to come up with a mutually acceptable employee agreement.

Obviously this might not work at every company, but it won't hurt to ask.

2 WORDS (0, Offtopic)

SparafucileMan (544171) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228614)

BEND OVER. (+ 7: You're working for The Man now, buddy)

Desperation Level (2, Interesting)

maliabu (665176) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228617)

the success or failure when dealing with wide reaching employment agreements such as this depends how desperate you are to get this job.

just my case (4, Informative)

Tellarin (444097) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228623)


in my case it was pretty straight forward
when the company asked me to sign such an agreement I just asked for the changes arguing that I am a associate researcher at a local federal universisty and that my research has nothing to do with the knowledge i use at the company and they happly made the requested changes.

I don't know if that would go so well if my other tie were with a regular company. But I have my publications and even software developed outside the company.

One approach (5, Interesting)

VAXcat (674775) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228629)

My pal Burk, when confronted with the very same problem, simply did not sign the form, tucked it back into the enormous pile of junk he had to fill out when starting at this company, and just didn't mention it. They apparently didn't check to see if he had, because they never said anything about it. If a problem ever came up, he figured he'd ask them to produce the agreement, and point out that he he had never signed. It's a shame it never came up - I really wanted to see what would happen...

Re:One approach (4, Insightful)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228780)

Of course, in that case, they could lawfully fire him on the spot with no compensation since the employment agreement was almost definitely contingent on his signing of the NDA. Sounds like a risky proposition to me...

Modern slavery (1)

Kosi (589267) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228630)

This is absolutely ridiculous, in germany it would be illegal, too. You'd better look for a decent employer, I can't imagine what an asshole company this must be to even *think* of asking such a thing from their empoyees.

Hey, good luck with that! (3, Insightful)

mnmlst (599134) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228637)

In today's I.T. market, I guess there are two major considerations to stick in the hopper before you decide:

1. Tinkering with this agreement could put you in a bad light with the new bosses. That said, I know a number of people who have significantly altered or rejected these agreements without significant fallout. Just keep in mind you are managing some "first impressions".

2. Each I.T. worker is very busy trying to just get the work of at least two people done and our bosses aren't much different. I have to wonder just how much time and energy these bosses would have left later for pursuing breach of contract claims against you at a later time. Reasonably speaking, if I was in the bosses' Johnston and Murphy's later on, it would depend upon the time and effort involved. Big breach, go after the employee. Little breach, let it slide, the next TPS Report is due on Friday after all...

Lucas holds up Indy 4 (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8228641)

Mods, I know many of you will want to mod this as Offtopic but I ask you to please just let it be so that others can read this. This is something of interest to many of us but would never become a slashdot article. Thus, printing it here in the Comments section is the only way others will be able to see it.

From the today:

Legendary film-maker George Lucas is delaying the filming of the long- awaited Indiana Jones 4 - because he's unhappy with the script. The Star Wars director, who's acting as executive producer alongside director Steven Spielberg, is allegedly dissatisfied with the screenplay handed in by Shawshank Redemption director Frank Darabont. And it now seems the sequel's projected 2005 release date is unlikely to be met, with shooting on the Harrison Ford-starring movie now likely to start next year instead.

Might be a problem... (3, Interesting)

sterno (16320) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228648)

Depends on the size of the company and how critical you are to them. waht you are asking for is actually a fundamental of California state law, so it's not that unusual. But if it's a large company, not operating in California, these sorts of things are likely to be rather boiler plate and immutable. If they have to have their lawyers get involved, it may be more trouble to alter the agreement than it's worth to them.

something else is that it's not clear if such provisions are really enforceable. Much like the contracts that say you can't do anything vaguely related to your original field of employ in the next decade.

Regardless, paying a good lawyer for an hour of his time to review it with you and give you advice, would probably be money well spent.

I admire your sense of morality... (3, Insightful)

Bowie J. Poag (16898) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228650)

I do admire your sense of morality, and your desire to adhere to the agreement your employer is forcing you to sign.


That clause doesn't exactly have your best interests in mind. You're not the first person to have that question, about that clause. Whats important is, you adhere to the spirit of the agreement---You dont take shit from work and release it as open source, and conversely, you dont work on a level editor for Super Mega Mario Pong World 3 on company time (or company resources). Similarly, you dont talk about your work in your weblog, and you dont spend company time (and use company resources) talking about your intensely interesting personal life outside of work.

Theres an unspoken agreement that most companies have regarding that clause. Adhere to the spirit of it, and be sure nobody gets hurt---especially them---and you'll be fine.

No sense in stirring up things, either. What they dont know wont hurt them, y'know?


Re:I admire your sense of morality... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8228736)

Bowie, I want to put my PEE PEE in your POO POO HOLE

It's actually really simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8228653)

You alter the contract, and if they accept it, then it's good.

Take a red pen *before* you sign anything. (2, Funny)

mindslip (16677) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228654)

I've been faced with many a contract that has crap to the effect of "we own everything you do whether before, during, after us, for us, or unrelated to us", and "you will not work in any field competing with us for a period of..."

I usually start by saying "I've crossed out all the unethical crap that you'd never sign yourselves..."


Just say how you feel (worked for me) (2, Informative)

GweeDo (127172) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228659)

When I was signing my contracts for the job I have now (have had it for three years or so) the initial contract had a very vague and broad reaching clause about what they considered a conflict of interest. I work for a web hsoting company and they basically said "anything that deals with the web is a no no for you". I said "there is no way I am signing that, it needs to say *this*". They accepted my modfided wording to narrow the scope to what we really do and all was good :)

Modifying Agreements (1)

Prong (190135) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228660)

First, in the current environment, you're not likely to have much luck in getting them to modify the agreement. These things are generally boilerplate, and deviations tend to have to be reviewed by the company attorney, which may be more hassle than they're willing to deal with unless you are someone they really, really want. I'd probably still ask, but expect a "no".

Second, if you create something on your own time, using your own resources, they will have trouble coming after you. Not that they won't, but generally speaking they will have trouble getting any kind of judgement against you.

Regardless, if you plan on persuing an outside project, get a lawyer specializing in employment law to review your agreements with the company. It will cost a couple hundred bucks, but it could save you some aggrevation down the line. Martindale [] is a good place to start.

Seek a waiver (1)

ahmed_a (241016) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228665)

I worked at a company that had a built-in waiver.
To my surprise, the waivers are based on State Law, and not US Law.
However, some companies are open to waiving specifc items IF you can define them well enough.
The defintion and description usually has to be specific enough that any change in concepts or implementation would be clear.
One way of nailing down conceptual ownership is to prepare an exhaustive definition and mail it to yourself by registered mail. You get all those nice official date stamps. Make sure they stamp the envelope wherever it might be tampered with.
Store the envelope somewhere safe, and if there is ever any doubt, show the envelope as proof of what you had before employment.

I'd tell them where to shove it (1)

jocknerd (29758) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228672)

Yeah its a job, but its your soul too. You don't work for them 24/7. Therefore what you do on your time should be yours not theirs. Otherwise, demand that they pay for your groceries and your utilities. After all, you might have a thought at home.

A couple of things... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8228674)

1. As others have said...HIRE A LAWYER

Now, to make this go in another direction:

1. I wonder how legal these sort of contracts actually are. I can't honestly believe that a court would allow a company to owns its employees minds in their spare time. I have heard horror stories about employees being asked to turn over their own projects that have nothing to do with their works business just because their employer thinks they might be able to make a buck on their spare-time work. Has anyone actually challenged these in court?

2. What about discussing the legal ramifications of developing for Open Source software while having signed one of these contracts. Could the employeer claim that project in some fashion?

3. This is exactly why I hate corporate america....(rant)

I've had mixed results (1, Informative)

FictionPimp (712802) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228678)

My job before my current job, I was able to modify my contract to state I had the rights to any software I created on my own time. I also had provisions stating that my own time was basically time when I was not working in the office (I had my lawyer put this in because I was salary and technically on the clock 24 hours a day). It was hard to push the the changes though, but being 1 of 3 people who knew how their software worked made it easy. My current job is with a huge corp. I am no longer a programmer so I didn't have to sign anything like that. I did have to sign a agreeement not to work at any other jobs that might hurt my job proformance for them. Im not sure what that means, but it hasn't stoped me from doing my small side jobs setting up new hardware and lans / small webscripting jobs for local buisness. None of this hurts my job proformance for them, as i'm never late and always at the top of the group. Its also not a competing buisness, so i'm not worried there. As said above, get yourself a lawyer. Hell, even if you weren't taking this job, you should always have a lawyer you can keep on retainer or at least a number in your wallet.

Been there (4, Informative)

Rorschach1 (174480) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228681)

My situation's probably a little different, since I wasn't just hired at a new company exactly. The company took over a contract from my former employer, so I was probably in a better position to have some leverage.

Anyway, I'm involved in an open source project that doesn't relate to what I do at work at all, and there's no reason to believe they'd want to screw me, but I figured it was better to be safe. So after talking to the local HR guy, I wrote up a letter describing what it is I'm doing, what parts of the IP agreemenet bothered me, and what I wanted to be exempt from. The company ethics board reviewed it, saw no conflict, and gave me back a memo acknowledging my letter and stating their acceptance of my terms.

I didn't make a big deal of it, but it did throw the local HR people off a bit. They're not used to anyone questioning policy, but I explained the situation and they were understanding.

Now if I could just get someone to give me the diffs between the new ethics manual they just sent out and the old one, and tell me why it's so imperative we sign off on this one, I'd be happy...

Re:Been there (1)

Rorschach1 (174480) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228730)

And to clarify a bit more, none of the company representatives I spoke to thought it was reasonable (or ethical) for the company to claim IP unrelated to the work I'm paid for. Apparently it's one of those boilerplate things the lawyers like, but I don't think any reasonable employer would have any object to making an exception for a well-defined case.

Hmmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8228691)

Why would your job as a manwhore require such an agreement?

Sounds like someone wants to remain jobless (0)

haplo21112 (184264) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228704)

...seriously you are not even on the payroll and asking for contract changes...

Become your own boss. Contract (1)

swamp_water (208334) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228709)

I don't think I know anyone who isn't a contractor these days. But the long and short of it, as a contractor, you can do whatever you like outside the job because they are hiring you as a company and not an employee. A lot of companies love to hire people on contract rather than employee because they can renegotiate later. And the tax relief is great. Lets face it, nobody is an employee anymore. Job security was something our fathers got when they applied to the telephone company. Now we must be vigilant and look for multiple sources of income.

Good luck

You're asking too much, but... (1)

dtrent (448055) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228717)

You're probably not going to get your new employer to change the wording on the document with regards to allowing you to independently develop software while you're working for them. You should, however, exempt items you developed previous to your employment there. If the documents you're signing don't have a place to list previous inventions, make sure you have that language added.

I also agree with a previous poster that a lawyer is essential, especially if the contract you're signing is up for negotiation. A lawyer who works in the field will have a good idea of what is "normal" in these situations.

BTW, there's no need to tell your new employer you have an attorney helping you.

What worked for me... (2, Interesting)

cmowire (254489) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228723)

The best situation is to hire a lawyer for yourself but take care to have somebody who's not a laywer at your company (but still authorized to sign for the company) sign it. It will generally involve a few cross-outs here and there. Many of the claims on what you do on your own accord aren't legally enforcable, but it's still better to get things over when you start as opposed to having to answer to legal paperwork.

My previous employer made the attempt. I consulted a lawer, had a few things crossed out, have them sign it, and no problems occured. You just have to paint yourself as a reasonable person and explain that you won't be using their resources or doing anything on company time, *ever* and it will probably just be open source hacking or whatnot.

A now-bankrupt publishing company tried to make me sign a really awful contract for some writing work, so I just walked away from the whole deal.

My current employer made no such attempt, which saved me much trouble. They also don't outsource, treat their programmers well, provide free lunch, etc. All hail the company. ;)

Might be illegal, depending on where you live (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8228724)

Depending on your jurisdiction, the changes you want to make may be illegal.

I know that the labour laws in Ontario, Canada (where I live) and possibly California and Utah (USA) expressly state that anything you do 24/7 while being employed (ie, on payroll, drawing a wage or salary) is the property of your employer.

Since provicial/state laws cannot be overriden (legally) by us little people, there's no way you can modify the terms of your employment contract and still be legally compliant.

(In fact, even if you and your employer agree to do something like this, if you ever go to court for some reason, the courts may deem that there was no legally binding employment contract at all -- at which point the employer can sue you for everything they paid you -- and forget about anything that's owed to you.)

The only way to get around this is to offer your services to your "employer" as a consultant. This way, the employer/employee relationship does not exist (it's a vendor/client relationship), and they no longer own you and what you do in "your" time.

You agreed they could *own* you? (1)

Ithika (703697) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228729)

"states in part that I am to disclose to the company anything that I create wether or not during company time, and wether or not it relates to the company. I also must agree that these same creations or inventions become the sole property of the company."


What?? Did I just read that correctly? You have signed away all rights to anything you create while you are employed by them, no matter if it was at home at the weekend or at work during office hours. Are you absolutely stark raving bonkers?

I'm left speechless that anyone want let this happen to them once, never mind at every single employer they've ever had...

Are things that bad? (1)

Zygote-IC- (512412) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228739)

I have been asked to sign an agreement that states in part that I am to disclose to the company anything that I create wether or not during company time, and wether or not it relates to the company. I also must agree that these same creations or inventions become the sole property of the company.

Is this now boilerplate for companies in the tech sector? That's enough to scare the hell out of me. Is the CEO David Koresh? Locutus of Borg?

"We own you. You do something we own it. You think about something we own it. We expect you to bring your wife and kids and leave them with us. They belong to us now. You will adapt to service US."

Man, if things are that bad I think I would take up a less demanding profession, like panhandler, drug dealer or can collector.

You can Try (1)

sogoodsofarsowhat (662830) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228749)

to get them to change it. Maybe they will maybe they wont. I certainly would not work for such a company.

What you do on your time is your business (2, Interesting)

RonMcMahon (544607) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228751)

I've faced the very same situation in many different permanent and contract positions, and I simply disclosed what I was doing (as this was all prior and external to my employment), and I stated that they did NOT have a right to own this work. They agreed and further agreed to modify the document to state that what I created during my own time was my own, as long as it did not directly compete with the work I was being paid to do, which I felt was fair.

If a company wants to own your personal time efforts, then they should be willing to pay you for your personal time at the same rate as your regular work hours.

To give in to a demand that your personal time creations are owned by the company reduces you to nothing more than a slave, with no property rights whatsoever. Western society escaped that viewpoint a long time ago, no matter what a work-contract may have you believe.

And the Follow-up Response to "Hire a Lawyer" is.. (1)

Rude Turnip (49495) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228756)

"And ignore anything and everything that everyone is saying here, even if it sounds like it makes sense; because in a legal context it might not."

May be a bit underhanded, but... (5, Informative)

Cherveny (647444) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228779)

What I have done at several jobs was look at the contract, then just strike out with a pen the portions I did not agree with, along with initialing the strike outs, then making sure to get a copy of this modified contract.

I've found that often, HR people are too busy/lazy to scrutizie their forms to see if you've modified it in any way, thus it can slip through.

I did this. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#8228784)

I am based in the UK. For a temporary contract (I have seem the same on permanent ones), there was a clause including the same terms as yours and an agreement not to undertake any other work without permission.

An offer of employment had been made and I was given the contract to sign. I explained that I did sometimes undertake other work in my own time and that this was non-negotiable. I provided them with a written letter stating this with the proviso that I would not accept any work from a client of theirs or one with which they had entered negotiations, and asked them to give me a formal letter in reply agreeing to this. Which I kept.

This saved them having to arrange a special contract and it was no loss to them. No issue ever arose but it would have served fine in a UK court as the contract allowed them to give permission for outside work.

This was a fairly small company however, without a massively beauracratical HR department. Still, it should not be a problem unless your company chooses to make it one.

I believe the US is a little more lawyer dependent than the UK however (so far).

If they don't accept it, keep pushing and keep an eye out for another job.

Depends on job and company (1)

fatray (160258) | more than 10 years ago | (#8228795)

There are some jobs that the company would not negotiate the NDC (+etc). For example, most companies would not let an R&D guy have an even distantly related outside business. OTOH, if you are the network support guy, they are not going to be too concerned about an outside interest.

There will be some companies that will not want to negotiate their agreements. If this is a junior position, it isn't worth it for them to get the legal department cranked up to mod the contracts. In one of my previous jobs it took 4 weeks to get a contract looked at by legal. If the manager has a choice between you and a guy that he can hire without talking to the lawyers, guess who he's pick.

You've already had plenty of advice to get a lawyer. Get one.
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