Have a question about how to use the law in your story? Need a character, plot twist or setting? Ask me in the comments section and I'll be glad to answer. I welcome all comments and questions.

Monday, January 21, 2013

666 Park Avenue Starts With An Employment Law Lesson

The new television show, 666 Park Avenue, is a fun show about a luxury apartment building that has issues way beyond the normal plumbing problems. And the landlord? Well, as the Church Lady used to say on SNL, "Could it be Satan?" I think I had that landlord once.

The first show starts out with our hero couple finding the ideal job as managers of the building from hell. It all looks so nice, the tenants so happy. The new boss offers them more money than they imagined and a gorgeous apartment. He shoves a lengthy agreement in front of them. What's the worst that could happen?

Of course, our heroes sign without reading. And there's the big lesson for all employees: read what you sign. Your could be making a deal with the devil.

What could be in the agreement in this show makes me shudder to think. I'm sure we'll find out some of the worst provisions as the show progresses.

What could be in your employment agreement? There could be a noncompete provision saying you can't work for a competitor for a year or two. Or a nonsolicitation agreement, saying you can't solicit or communicate with clients, vendors and employees of the company for a year or two. I saw one that was so broad, my client couldn't talk to her bank about her own bank account if she signed. One would have barred my client from talking to his son for three years. You might have waived your right to a jury trial for any disputes against your employer, or have agreed to arbitrate, meaning you'll never get your day in court.

For writers, horror of horrors, there could be an intellectual property agreement saying that, if you thought of it or wrote it while you worked for them, even on their own time, they own it. That's right. Your blog, Twitter account, novel or nonfiction book about the workings of your industry might not be your own.

While you enjoy this fun new show, let it serve as a reminder to you: no matter how nice someone seems, read what you sign. You just might be making a deal with the devil.


Jen3 said...

Hi - not sure if this is the right place to ask this, but I'd love some feedback around this scenario - An underage girl suffering from amnesia after a motor car accident. A powerful lawyer father, removing her from hospital before doctors realize she's suffered memory loss. Father uses the memory loss to get the daughter to confess to being raped. The alleged rapist (who is innocent) is arrested and convicted based nothing more than the girl's statement.

What are the odds of something like this happening in real life, and can the law be so weak to allow something like this to happen?

Donna Ballman said...

Hi Jen3. Anything is possible in the judicial system. If he had a lawyer who was overwhelmed and unprepared, it's definitely possible. What's more likely is he would be pressured into taking a plea based on the girl's testimony. He could be convinced he had little chance because they didn't disclose the memory loss. That could put your guy in jail without a trial, and since he pled guilty he could have an uphill battle getting back out.

I hope this helps!