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How do I know if my employment contract is legal?

As so many of our regular readers know, contracts are often considered the lifeblood of the entertainment industry. Everything from authorizing the use of a screenwriter's script to producing a song or album, you can bet that a well-drafted contract is behind each of these transactions, making sure that both parties have protections in the event that litigation is required to resolve a dispute.

But even though the industry requires nearly everyone to sign a contract, not everyone in the industry is fluent in contract law and knows what to look out for when drafting and signing this legally binding document. Because not everyone has an extensive legal background, many people are left asking questions they do not readily have the answers to such as the one we're presenting in this week's post title:

How do I know if my employment contract is legal?

While this question typically gets asked when a person is dealing with a smaller studio or producer, it can arise when dealing with reputable companies as well. The trick to answering this question on your own is to know that companies have to follow state contract and employment laws. This means that any language in a contract not within the scope of the law can be refuted during a dispute and may be deemed unenforceable by the courts.

So what are some areas of the law that companies in the entertainment industry have to abide by? Well, for starters, an employer must make sure that the contract you sign is in accordance with California's employment laws, which include wage and hour laws, health and safety laws, and employment laws that address harassment and discrimination in the workplace.

An employer has to also make sure that they are in compliance with contract law as well, such as whether an arbitration clause is being used correctly or not.

Unless you have had some experience with drafting employment contracts or have extensive legal knowledge, it may be difficult for the average person to know if the contract they are signing is legal or not until they take their case to court. Talking to a lawyer before signing a contract can help avoid this though because a skilled attorney can look over a contract ahead of time and spot any potential disputes before they become complex legal issues down the road.

Source: The State of California Employment Development Department, "Employment Contracts," Accessed April 13, 2015

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