Want to Tie the Employee Up to You Forever?

by Ervin Cohen & Jessup LLP
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EmpBlog-5.22.2013-EmployeecuffsThere are occasions when an employer desires to contractually tie an employee to it for an extended period of time.  These situations typically involve unique individuals who have special talents that cannot be easily replaced, such as with professional athletes or certain persons in the entertainment business.  In those situations, a term employment contract is often used.  But there are limits to how long such a contract can remain in place and still be enforceable.

To be clear, we are not talking about a brief employment contract or an employment relationship that is at-will and is ongoing in nature; generally speaking, nothing prevents an employee from working with an employer for years and years as long as the relationship is desired by both parties.  The problem arises when an employer attempts to enforce a contract for personal service beyond seven years in length.

Pursuant to California Labor Code section 2855, and except for certain contracts pertaining to the production of “phonorecords”, seven years is the maximum length for a contract to render personal service.  An employee may voluntarily elect to continue to work under a contract requiring personal service beyond seven years, but an employer cannot enforce a contract against an employee beyond seven years from the date of commencement.  Similarly, a contract cannot be enforced against an employer beyond seven years from the date of commencement.  Neither options to renew the contract nor gaps in service due to lack of work will allow the contract to extend beyond this limit; courts have held that the seven-year bar is absolute and cannot be waived as it is a matter of public policy.

This blog is presented under protest by the law firm of Ervin Cohen & Jessup LLP.  It is essentially the random thoughts and opinions of someone who lives in the trenches of the war that often is employment law–he/she may well be a little shell-shocked.  So if you are thinking “woohoo, I just landed some free legal advice that will fix all my problems!”, think again.  This is commentary people, a sketchy overview of some current legal issue with a dose of humor, but commentary nonetheless; as if Dennis Miller were a lawyer…and still mildly amusing.  No legal advice here; you would have to pay real US currency for that (unless you are my mom, and even then there are limits).  But feel free to contact us with your questions and comments—who knows, we might even answer you.  And if you want to spread this stuff around, feel free to do so, but please keep it in its present form (‘cause you can’t mess with this kind of poetry).  Big news: Copyright 2013.  All rights reserved; yep, all of them.

If you have any questions about this article, contact the writer directly, assuming he or she was brave enough to attach their name to it.  If you have any questions regarding this blog or your life in general, contact Kelly O. Scott, Esq., commander in chief of this blog and Head Honcho (official legal title) of ECJ’s Employment Law Department, at (310) 281-6348 or kscott@ecjlaw.com.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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