It has become more common for employers to require new employees to sign employment agreements when they are hired. These agreements are used primarily to protect company secrets and to discourage “employee poaching” by competitors.
Confidentiality agreements are used to prevent a job applicant or an employee from sharing information about the company that he or she learns during a job interview or during the course of employment. The confidentiality agreement (often called a nondisclosure agreement) should specify the information that the applicant or employee may not disseminate or share. The agreement should also clearly state the period of time the agreement is valid and the period of confidentiality.
In a non-compete agreement, the employee signs a contract agreeing to not work for a competitor company or to start a competing business for a certain time period after his or her employment ends. Non-compete agreements must clearly state the period of time the employee must refrain from competition and must also clearly define the types of businesses that are considered competitors, both in terms of industry and geographic location.
Work product agreements protect a company’s intellectual property by stating that anything the employee creates during his or her employment remains the property of the company, rather than of the individual employee. The contract should clearly define the type of product to be protected by the agreement. A typical work product agreement states that work product includes “any and all discoveries, inventions, ideas, concepts, research, trademarks, service marks, slogans, logos and information, processes, products, techniques, methods and improvements” that the employee develops independently or in cooperation with other employees or companies.