Employment law for high income earners and executives presents significant challenges. Strategic, pragmatic advice can assist in best positioning senior employees at various times in their career.
Senior employees may benefit from legal advice (and depending on the circumstances, legal representation):
- at the contract negotiation
- in the event of performance or conduct investigations
- around the termination of employment
- around the recovery of wages, commissions, bonus and options.
Most executive and senior employee contracts are subject to written contracts of employment.
Commonly, advice is sought in relation to the terms and effects of the contract at a time the relationship has soured and the parties are seeking to enforce their contractual entitlements.
The best time to obtain advice as to the terms of a contract is at the time it is being created. The advice can usefully be used to form part of the negotiations around the contract. Key issues for consideration include:
- restraints and non-compete obligations;
- intellectual property rights;
- incentives, including bonuses;
- complex remuneration structures including share options and deferred payments;
- notice periods and termination payments.
Segelov Taylor is able to provide accurate, focused and pragmatic advice around contractual terms, and assist in the drafting of contractual terms that best meet the agreement of the parties.
Performance investigations and reviews
Executive employment is often subject to high, ongoing expectations as to performance. KPIs and other targets can be crucial for ongoing employment.
While lawyers cannot assist in the performance of the work, legal advice and representation can be very helpful in framing performance assessments, and best positioning employees to meet allegations of performance failure. Advice of this kind can be crucial in avoid terminations, and as part of a strategy to maintain employment, or to negotiate a agreed severance package.
From time to time allegations of inappropriate action may be made against senior managers and executives. Such allegations may cover acts of unlawful discrimination, sexual harassment or other judgment errors. Most allegations of harassment for example, involve an allegation of action by an individual with an accompanying allegation that the employing company is liable for the individual’s conduct.
Standard practice where allegations are made is for an independent investigation to be conducted. Prudent engagement with the investigation can minimise risk of termination of employment, or subsequent legal proceedings.
Increasingly, employers are seeking to limit their exposure by cutting loose employees against whom allegations have been made and suggesting that they acted outside their authority, or contrary to the training and direction they had been provided. In such cases the employee is required to defend themselves not only against the initial allegations, but also defend themselves against allegations made by the former employer.
Termination of employment
The termination of employment is an inevitable element of employment relationships. On occasions, terminations will become acrimonious and difficult. Preemptive, considered advice can reduce acrimony and maximise the possibility of reasonable outcomes. Where this is not possible, Segelov Taylor can assist in litigation.
Recovery of wages, commissions, bonus and options
Executives and senior employees often have complex remuneration structures that involve delayed or contingent payments, or payments based on performance. Such payments can often represent a significant (or even overwhelming) element of a remuneration package.
Disputes arise from time to time as to the payment of such pay elements. Such disputes can be minimised or avoided by clear and unambiguous language in the contract of employment. Where a dispute arises, Segelov Taylor can assist by providing pragmatic and aggressive advice on how to best protect a position with least risk and at minimum cost.