Federal and state laws prohibiting employers from discriminating based on race, color, religious creed, national origin, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, genetic information, ancestry, age and disability begins at the hiring process. As such, what an employer may ask a potential employee is limited by these laws.

An employer must also consider what kind of employment relationship it will have with the employee, e.g., at-will or contractual. Employers should have guidance in drafting offer letters and employment contracts.

Personnel Files

State law defines what constitutes an employee’s personnel file, how it must be maintained and when it must be produced. See M.G.L. c. 149, § 52C. Massachusetts also has detailed requirements regarding how personal data, which may include information contained in personnel files, must be maintained. 201 CMR 17.00 et seq.

Violations of these laws and regulations may result in penalties and fees for the employer.

Employment Agreements

Employers may choose to enter into written agreements with employees to define the terms of their relationship. Employment contracts may not only define the compensation and duties, but also employee benefits and the grounds for termination.

Non-Compete, Non-Solicitation & Confidentiality Agreements

Employers may also seek to protect their trade secrets and good will by requiring employees to enter into confidentiality, non-solicitation and non-disclosure agreements.

To be enforceable, employers must consider issues of timing, consideration and the scope of the terms sought. If an agreement is found to be unenforceable because the contract is not supported by valid consideration, or is unreasonably broad in time or geography, the employer may lose the protections originally sought by the agreement.