Contract Advice

Contract Advice

By Mick Nelson  | Monday, February 13, 2017

Dealing with your contract may be unpleasant and tedious but it's important to get it right. Having a contract puts you in a good position should the worst case scenario occur. So in the unlikely event that the job does not work out, a signed contract may protect your legal rights. Unfortunately a signed contract may only serve to provide you peace of mind, giving you a better understanding of the job you are expected to do. If you find yourself resigning over a contractual dispute, you still have to have money to defend your position.


Record any variations to the contract for both you and your employers benefit. Most contracts set out how these are to be recorded and documented. Changes should not be made to an existing contract’s terms without seeking expert advice.  If it is not in writing it probably does not exist.

Read the contract - Before signing a contract, take the time to read and understand it. If you are unclear of any provisions in the contract seek advice.  Your attorney should always be involved.

Understand the dollars - Make sure you know how the contract handles payment for services, benefits, insurance, and other employer responsibilities.

Information contained in the contract may be daunting and confusing. It is vitally important however, that you understand your and the employer’s rights and obligations. It is imperative that you read all the documents carefully and retain a copy of the signed contract.

The points below may help you in understanding your contract documents:

  • There can be numerous documents that make up a contract. These documents may vary, depending on the sort of contract you use. These are called addendums or exhibits and will be attached to the main contract pages.
  • Whatever documents you need to supply will be stated within the contract itself. Your employer should be able to supply the correct kind of contract but if you have any doubts, contact your attorney.  
  • Your contract documents may contain words that you need clarification on.  Your contract should provide you with a definition, meaning or interpretation of particular words within your contract. These are usually denoted by italics or bold font.
  • Most contracts will contain a dispute resolution clause. This should be referred to if there is a dispute or disagreement between you and the employer. 

Essential items

Before signing anything, you need to check that:

  • The starting date, duration, and renewal date are clearly stated.  
  • The employers name and any of their controlling companies or organizations are listed.
  • A detailed job description that list your duties, and your employers expectations of the work that needs to be carried out, including special requirements or conditions.  
  • The contract salary promised, and how payments will be distributed.
  • Benefits and Insurance including but not limited to retirement plan, investment plan, vacation days, sick days, overtime work, special projects compensation.
  • A grievance policy and HR structure.
  • The organizational structure and who you are responsible to and for.  Is there a CEO or a BOD?  What are your detailed responsibilities to them and who governs the decision making process?
  • Employment performance reviews: Frequency, how they are handled and by who.
  • Any 'provisional sum' or 'bonuses' are clearly stated in the schedules and are understood.  Eg. Moving expense – program success profit sharing – performance bonus – cost of living yearly increase.
  • Reimbursement for business expenses.
  • Travel expense policy.
  • Dress code and apparel allowance.
  • Cell phone and computer policies – who’s equipment and who pays for service?
  • Automobile policy.
  • Professional dues and organizational membership reimbursement.
  • CEU’s and clinic travel, registration, expense, reimbursement policies.
  • An acknowledgement that both parties have read and understood all procedures relating to the contract.

The contract usually comes into force on the day the last party signs the contract and that signing is communicated to the other party. This is called the "contract date".

Once the contract is signed by both the employer and employee, you usually have to complete a number of tasks set out in the contract (for example: health examination - orientation – background check – relocation ) before the employment can commence.

Cooling off Period

Some states have a cooling off period by law. You may have the right to withdraw from the contract before the period expires.

Non-compete agreement – if this is included in your contract, read it carefully and make sure you understand what restrictions you are agreeing to if you quit your position.


State law plays an important part in how the contract is written.  There are "at-will" employment states, meaning that there is no requirement for contracts when you have a job.  Rather, you are the employee simply at the will of the employer, who can get rid of you any time, for any reason (except discrimination). Similarly, the employee can leave at any time, for any reason.  Bottom line is no security, no strings attached, but freedom to make a change at any time by any party. Employers can offer contracts, but do not have to.  And most do not.  If a contract is signed by both parties in an at will state it is then binding.

Suggested verbiage

"The Board of Directors must inform the Head Coach no later than June 30th on the state of employment for the next employment year beginning September 1st and ending August 31st. As of July 1st, with no formal notification to the contrary, the Head Coach contract will automatically renew for that next contract year with a minimum 2% increase for salary over the length of the contract."

The American Swimming Coaches Association (ASCA)  has some excellence resources to help with contract development.



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