Published: May 29, 2024

hand and pen writing on paperGetting your first job after graduation is exciting, but also a little scary. For many new graduates, the exhilaration of starting a new career is quickly dampened when you are handed a stack of dense legal documents to sign when offered a job. 

Although you may not have expected the first step on your career journey to be paperwork, Student Legal Services is here to offer guidance with common employment contracts you may be nervous to sign. Eligible CU students qualify for Student Legal Services for three months after graduation, so low-cost help is available to aid your transition into the workforce. 

Besides the normal W-4 and I-9 forms you may be familiar with, here are some other documents you may be asked to sign as a condition of employment. 

Noncompete agreements 

A noncompete agreement restricts employees for a period of time after leaving work for a competitor, doing business with existing clients or starting a competing business. Such agreements can feel like a major hurdle to continuing in your field if your current job doesn’t work out. 

While noncompete agreements are meant to safeguard a company’s competitive advantage and client base, it can also limit the career opportunities of the employee. Enforcement of such agreements is diminishing. In April 2024, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) proposed banning noncompete agreements nationwide to promote competition. Although the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and several other pro-business groups have sued the FTC to block this ban, noncompete agreements are falling out of favor. 

Nondisclosure agreements 

One reason noncompete agreements are falling out of favor is that there are other, less restrictive ways for companies to protect their advantages. One of these less restrictive methods is a nondisclosure agreement, which precludes an employee from sharing or using proprietary information acquired during employment. 

A nondisclosure agreement typically protects a company’s proprietary processes, customer lists or trade secrets. They allow an employee to leave and work for a competitor, but the employee can be sued if they share any such information with their new employer—and potentially anyone else too.  

Therefore, it is important for an employee to understand the scope of the nondisclosure agreement and what types of information would be considered confidential under the agreement.   

Intellectual property 

Intellectual property is one type of information that is generally proprietary, even if such information isn’t always confidential, such as publicly disclosed designs in a patent application. However, some new employees may be confused about who owns the intellectual property they create. 

Many employment agreements include provisions that establish corporate ownership of anything an employee creates during employment, even if the creations are not related to the job. It is important to understand these clauses, so you know which creations are yours and what belongs to the employer. 

Student Legal Services can help 

New employees should understand their rights and obligations when signing employment agreements. Knowing your rights allows you to protect yourself, negotiate employment wisely and be more successful in your career.  

Contact Student Legal Services for experienced advice before you sign any employment contracts that you don’t understand. Keep in mind that our attorneys cannot advise clients regarding employment agreements with the university, nor does it advise employers or students starting a business.   

Eligible students, and graduates up to three months after graduation, can schedule an appointment with Student Legal Services by calling 303-492-6813 or visiting our office at UMC 311. 

Need career support that does not pertain to a legal issue? 

Students and graduates are encouraged to connect with Career Services, who can help with resume and cover letters, finding a job, networking and interviewing, and more. 

Start by meeting with a career advisor