You apply for a job, get the job offer, and you are hired! Congrats! Now you have to fill out all the paperwork through the HR department. Well there is something you need to watch out for at this point. Let me tell you my story.
Just like the start of this article, I recently applied for a part time job and landed it. I was really pleased as it was a really good job doing something I enjoy. Then I received all the paperwork you have to fill out and sign from the HR department, such as the IRS form W-4, confidentiality agreement, and several others. I normally don't have any problem with these documents, but I do read the agreements I have to sign. One of the documents I had to sign was titled "Employee Work Made for Hire Agreement". I've signed these before. They are somewhat standard. The usual purpose of the agreement is to state that if you create something for your employer while on the job, it belongs to the employer. I'm ok with that because they hired me to create things for them when I am on the job. Well let me tell you about the one I just got.
The way the agreement was written, and it was very obvious, not only would they own anything I create while on the job, but they would own anything I create outside of work. Yes, if I wrote and published a book, they would own it. If I invented something that had nothing to do with their company, they would own it. If I woke up in the middle of the night with that million dollar idea, they would own it. If I created something for someone else, they would own it. If I created a software program, they would own it. Anything I create, they would own - even though I created when not on the job working for them - even though it would have nothing to do with their company - and even though they had nothing to do with it! Here is a real kicker: as part of the agreement I would have to make a list of prior inventions and stuff that I created and attach it to the agreement. If I should miss listing something, they could possibly claim ownership of it. This just blew me away.
By the way - I did have a lawyer look at it and my interpretation of the agreement is correct. Needless to say I would not sign this agreement - especially for a part time job. I mentioned my concerns to the HR department and was told that other part time workers have signed it with no problem. My guess is that they really didn't read it or understand it. I was told that they will bring up my concerns with their management. I'm still waiting to hear from them. In the meantime, I contacted the person who I would be reporting to and was told that I should have been given this agreement because it is only for full time employees. To tell you honestly, I wouldn't sign this agreement if I was applying for a full time position. If I did - they would own me.
The bottom line warning of this article is to read all agreements that you are required to sign when landing a new job. Otherwise you could be literally signing your life away. Other types of agreements that you will often see from HR departments are confidentiality agreements and non-compete agreements. These can be harmless, but they can also be dangerous. And sometimes, HR departments combine these agreements into one document. So read all agreements and if you don't fully understand them, get a lawyer to look them over. Good luck!