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staff contracts


prasantrin
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A friend who owns a restaurant in Canada is thinking of having her employees sign contracts. These contracts would include their job duties, and possibly also something that prevents them from using her recipes elsewhere.

Is this kind of thing actually done? She wants to do it herself (write the contract), though we're trying to convince her to see a lawyer to do it. Should she start writing it herself, other than salary, deductions, vacation time, etc., what else should one include in such a contract? For the recipe clause, what kind of wording would be appropriate? I've been looking for examples online, but I haven't found any specific to restaurants.

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I am not a Lawyer (INAL) so this is not legal advise,

In the UK a written notice to staff is required by law, I guess its required elsewhere as well, Often the staff also sign it as an acknowledgment, and it can be in the form of a contract.

At the minimum it must specify

Hours and place of work

Holiday entitlement

Remuneration (pay, tips, profit share, benefits in kind (staff meals, drinks, freebies, uniforms), insurance, health care, share options etc)

Grievance procedure.

Grievance procedure is the one thing missing form your list above.

You can include a non-disclosure clause, but they need careful wording to be binding, and not to constitute a restraint of trade. For example you cannot include recipes or procedures that the person may already know, or that are published elsewhere. How long after they leave are they bound for? Is it worldwide? How will you distinguish your recipes, from ones already published, or well known. Are you going to have to mark your own recipes "Trade Secret" or print them on lavender paper to distinguish them?

Some restaurants do use confidentiality clauses and they are common in hih-tech employment contracts, but they are usually not worth the paper they are written on, since they are almost impossible to enforce, and add little to exisitng copyright and other protection.

Frankly you have more to worry about, like cash flow, good staff relations and team building than paranoia over recipes being stolen. By contrast, many chefs want their recipes published for the publicity.

I would strongly advise real legal advise.

Edited by jackal10 (log)
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Homaru Cantu (of Moto restaurant in Chicago) posts on egullet every so often (under the user name electrolux, I believe) and he has posted about this very issue somewhere on here. Because of the tech stuff he does his staff has to sign confidentiality agreements, and he also doesn't allow stagiere anymore. But it's somewhere on egullet - if I were more computer-savvy (and less lazy on my day off!) I could probably find it.

"A culture's appetite always springs from its poor" - John Thorne

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When I worked for a restaurant in Mass, which was part of a group of about 5 hotels, I had to sign a contract. It basically stated that I understood the job title, description, wage and time period(it was a seasonal gig). I also had to sign a paper that stated I had read and understood the employee handbook that listed all the company rules and regulations. It was not a legal binding contract that kept either party from teminating the agreed conditions or changing them. It was basically to inform the employee of their rights as well as the employer's rights.

I am in Germany now and everyone has a contract here. It is much more for the employees benefit than for the company's. It is binding and it makes it very hard for a company to fire an employee. Most contracts are for 12 to 18 months. Although, for say an apprentice, there are shorter contracts and rarley, like in my case there are contracs which have an unlimitted time period. I can quit any time, I just have to give a three weeks notice, which was stated in my contract. The company must work on a "three strikes and your out" system before letting someone go, unless it is something like a theft in which case the law gets involved.

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Homaru Cantu (of Moto restaurant in Chicago) posts on egullet every so often (under the user name electrolux, I believe) and he has posted about this very issue somewhere on here. Because of the tech stuff he does his staff has to sign confidentiality agreements, and he also doesn't allow stagiere anymore. But it's somewhere on egullet - if I were more computer-savvy (and less lazy on my day off!) I could probably find it.

Inventolux. :biggrin: Thanks. Found his posts about that under the Interlude topic. Interesting reading in that topic.

When I worked for a restaurant in Mass, which was part of a group of about 5 hotels, I had to sign a contract. It basically stated that I understood the job title, description, wage and time period(it was a seasonal gig). I also had to sign a paper that stated I had read and understood the employee handbook that listed all the company rules and regulations. It was not a legal binding contract that kept either party from teminating the agreed conditions or changing them. It was basically to inform the employee of their rights as well as the employer's rights.

Were you unionized? I wonder if there's a difference between unionized and non-unionized restaurants in regards to contracts. When I was searching, it seemed unionized shops were more likely to have contracts.

I am in Germany now and everyone has a contract here. It is much more for the employees benefit than for the company's. It is binding and it makes it very hard for a company to fire an employee. Most contracts are for 12 to 18 months. Although, for say an apprentice, there are shorter contracts and rarley, like in my case there are contracs which have an unlimitted time period. I can quit any time, I just have to give a three weeks notice, which was stated in my contract. The company must work on a "three strikes and your out" system before letting someone go, unless it is something like a theft in which case the law gets involved.

Where you work now, is it possible to work without a contract? For example, let's say you have a 12-month contract which is expiring at the end of July, and both you and your employees know you're planning to leave the area, but not until September. Will they let you work off-contract for those last 2 months, or would you have to sign a full contract and then give notice 3 weeks before you want to leave?

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Grievance procedure is the one thing missing form your list above.

Thanks. I've passed that info on to those trying to write the contract for her.

You can include a non-disclosure clause, but they need careful wording to be binding, and not to constitute a restraint of trade. For example you cannot include recipes or procedures that the person may already know, or that are published elsewhere. How long after they leave are they bound for? Is it worldwide? How will you distinguish your recipes, from ones already published, or well known. Are you going to have to mark your own recipes "Trade Secret" or print them on lavender paper to distinguish them?

Hmmm...this is going to be just as difficult as I imagined.

Frankly you have more to worry about, like cash flow, good staff relations and team building than paranoia over recipes being stolen.

That is really part of the problem--the good staff relations and team building. The reason she (the owner) wants to institute this contract is because one of the employees has gotten too big for his britches (she's the main cook, he's the secondary cook). He refuses to help with prep work or clean-up, insists that he's the "chef" and that all the recipes are his (they're hers, and she taught him how to make them), etc. He even yells at her and the other staff, a la Gordon Ramsay. She's in the process of hiring two new cooks, and wants them to understand

I would strongly advise real legal advise.

We keep trying to drill into her that she needs a lawyer, but she's so stubborn! She thinks she can do everything on her own. We're also dealing with cultural issues, since the cooks she hires come from Thailand, and they often have limited English skills. I don't know how well a contract will go over with them...

Thanks to all for the comments and advice. They have been passed on, and I hope they help!

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Homaru Cantu (of Moto restaurant in Chicago) posts on egullet every so often (under the user name electrolux, I believe) and he has posted about this very issue somewhere on here. Because of the tech stuff he does his staff has to sign confidentiality agreements, and he also doesn't allow stagiere anymore. But it's somewhere on egullet - if I were more computer-savvy (and less lazy on my day off!) I could probably find it.

Inventolux. :biggrin: Thanks. Found his posts about that under the Interlude topic. Interesting reading in that topic.

When I worked for a restaurant in Mass, which was part of a group of about 5 hotels, I had to sign a contract. It basically stated that I understood the job title, description, wage and time period(it was a seasonal gig). I also had to sign a paper that stated I had read and understood the employee handbook that listed all the company rules and regulations. It was not a legal binding contract that kept either party from teminating the agreed conditions or changing them. It was basically to inform the employee of their rights as well as the employer's rights.

Were you unionized? I wonder if there's a difference between unionized and non-unionized restaurants in regards to contracts. When I was searching, it seemed unionized shops were more likely to have contracts.

I am in Germany now and everyone has a contract here. It is much more for the employees benefit than for the company's. It is binding and it makes it very hard for a company to fire an employee. Most contracts are for 12 to 18 months. Although, for say an apprentice, there are shorter contracts and rarley, like in my case there are contracs which have an unlimitted time period. I can quit any time, I just have to give a three weeks notice, which was stated in my contract. The company must work on a "three strikes and your out" system before letting someone go, unless it is something like a theft in which case the law gets involved.

Where you work now, is it possible to work without a contract? For example, let's say you have a 12-month contract which is expiring at the end of July, and both you and your employees know you're planning to leave the area, but not until September. Will they let you work off-contract for those last 2 months, or would you have to sign a full contract and then give notice 3 weeks before you want to leave?

I was not and never have been in a union. So, I can't help you with these issues. Although I am sure that any union member must sign a contract of some sort.

As I mentioned before everyone in Germany has a contract. When I say everyone I mean everyone from the Dishwashers to the Executive Chef, from the Valet to the Servers. At the end of a contract the employee is reviewed and can sign another contract if the company offers it. There are certain cases where a company will offer a short term contract, like in the situation you described. It is just that the enitial contract is in most cases, with the exception of say an apprentice, no shorter than 12 months.

As for myself I cannot leagaly work without a contract because I need a contract in order to get and keep my residence/work visa. Luckly I have an unlimited contract, but I must reapply for the work visa every 12 months. But that is a whole other, more complicated topic.

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By the way I think someone who owns a business, especially a restaurant, is crazy not to have a lawyer.

She does have a lawyer, she just prefers not to use him. She's very stubborn, as I mentioned earlier, and prefers to take care of things herself or ask someone she trusts to take care of things for her.

The other problem (not really a problem, but sort of a problem) is that she's Thai. She doesn't like confrontation, and "mai pen rai" ("nevermind") is her mantra. I think that's why the situation with the self-proclaimed chef has become what it is. He should most definitely be fired, but she sponsored him, as well, and although that sponsorship relationship officially ended last January, he applied for permanent residency so he needs a full-time job, and she was too kind not to comply with his request to stay on a little longer (and this even though he's planning on opening his own restaurant once he gets his residency).

Her situation is very frustrating, but since we can't talk her into doing what we know is right, all we can do is help her in any way we can.

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