Employment Contracts Trump At-Will

Florida is an at-will employment state. This provides a great deal of freedom for both the employee and employer. The employee is free to leave the job at any time and work for a competitor, for example. Similarly, an employer is free to terminate an employee for any reason they wish or for no reason at all. A Fort Lauderdale employment attorney can explain is that there are certain limitations for termination based on federal and state discrimination laws.

An employment contract removes some of that freedom and attempts to replace it with more certainty and structure with both advantages and disadvantages to the employer.

Contract Issues

An employment contract can be of a general, boilerplate type or specifically drafted by a Fort Lauderdale employment attorney for a unique employee or anywhere in between. In any case, some of the issues commonly addressed include: • Term of employment; how long is the contract in force

  • Job description and duties of the employee
  • What compensation the employee shall receive and the manner in which that compensation is calculated
  • Employee benefits and when and under what circumstances they accrue
  • Ownership of any intellectual property created by the employee during employment
  • A non-competition clause
  • Grounds for termination
  • Methods to resolve any disputes arising out of the employment contract

Written At-will Agreement

Some employers will ask an employee to sign a written agreement that specifically states that their employment is at will and they can be fired at any time if the firing does not violate any other law. Although this may be contractual in nature, a Fort Lauderdale employment attorney emphasizes that this is not an employment contract; it serves only to reinforce the employee’s at-will status.


The primary advantage an employment contract provides to an employer is control over an employee’s ability to leave the company. Among the reasons that a Fort Lauderdale employment attorney suggests that control may be important are:

  • Significant training and time was expended in preparing the employee for their position
  • If in the normal course of their job the employee is exposed to trade secrets or other highly confidential information
  • Keeping a valued employee from the competition. A long-term deal with attractive compensation can ensure continued employment.

Of course, no employment contract can force an individual to continue working against their will but the inducements for staying and the penalties for leaving that can be incorporated into the contract can be very persuasive.


Employment contracts may prove disadvantageous to an employer who finds their business needs have changed. A multi-year contract for an employee whose job has become obsolete can be problematic. Often the only solution is to renegotiate the terms, which can be time-consuming, costly and has no certain results.

Contact a Fort Lauderdale Employment Lawyer for Legal Advice

Many businesses can benefit from counsel with experience in drafting and negotiating a variety of different employment agreements in different contexts. For any questions regarding your particular business situation, call Mark J. Berkowitz, P.A., a Fort Lauderdale employment lawyer, at (954) 527-0570.