Can My Boss Make Me Assume Legal Liabilities For The Company?
An AOL Jobs reader asks:
Your boss thought signing the contract was too risky, so he wants you to sign instead? What a guy. You are 100 percent correct in also refusing to sign. If you sign a contract taking responsibility on behalf of the company, you could end up being personally liable if anything goes wrong.If you're an at-will employee like most people, it gets worse. You could still be responsible for the contract even if you're fired. I've seen employees who signed property or equipment leases sued when the company failed to pay, even though they hadn't worked there for years. Never sign anything taking personal responsibility for your company's debts or obligations.
My boss (physician) was asked by administration to sign a collaborating agreement with a nurse practitioner. He refused to sign it because of high responsibility and liability. He asked me to do it, but I refused to sign it. Now he is threatening me saying that an administration wants to find another physician and I should start looking for a new job. Please, can you advise me what are my rights and should I talk with HR about this statement? Thank you.
Yes, you should put, in writing, to HR, what your boss is insisting you do and why he refused to sign himself. While you could still be fired for refusing to sign, if the company has any sense at all they will realize that it's just bad business to make non-supervisory employees sign contracts.
First of all, once they designate signing authority to you, what's to stop you from signing other contracts obligating the company to all kinds of things? You clearly would then have signing authority for the company. Second, they would lose control over the contracting process. Why would they want lower-level employees to sign contracts for them?
I'm guessing your boss didn't get the okay from his superiors to designate contract signing authority to you. If he did, then the company you're working for is too stupid for words and you should start looking now to get the heck out of there.
If you're even thinking about signing this contract for the company, then make sure you have a lawyer in your state who handles the type of contract you're signing to review it and advise of any legal liabilities you're assuming with the agreement. Find out what can go wrong and what you will be held personally responsible for. Don't sign unless you fully understand what you're getting into. As a physician, you may even be putting your license on the line.
If you have an employment agreement, then you should also have an employment lawyer in your state review it to see if you have any rights under your contract.
To sum up, there is no possible reason I can think of why a lawyer in your state would recommend you sign a contract on behalf of your company when you aren't an officer, director or high level manager.
If you need legal advice, it's best to talk to an employment lawyer in your state, but if you have general legal issues you want me to discuss publicly here, whether about discrimination, working conditions, employment contracts, medical leave, or other employment law issues, you can ask me at AOL Jobs.
Please note: Anything you write to me may be featured in one of my columns. I won't be able to respond individually to questions.