Old 02-23-2006, 04:52 AM
breaking_in breaking_in is offline
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 6
Default Contracts (non-union)

Hi Chiefs,

I'm currently in the (slow, arduous, political-minefield-esque) process of transferring from Operations to a News Photog position. While my current boss is ducking and weaving my every attempt to get him to commit to a release date, I am at least taking some comfort in the News Director's assurance that the job will be waiting for me whenever I get there.

So, as you might guess, I've been a regular guest in our HR Director's office as I try to navigate the sandbox without being too involved. Today, however, during the course of one of our discussions, she mentioned that because of recent high turnover in the newsroom, they will very likely ask me to sign a TWO YEAR CONTRACT (gulp).

As our conversation turned to the more pointed issues of the moment, I didn't really press for too much information about what the stipulations would be, but the gist of it was that they want to protect their "investment" in training me, etc.

I was wondering if any of you had any experience with, or thoughts about this. I am trying to anticipate what the terms could be, and also figure out what would be equitable.

The photog job pays only $.50/hr more than what I get now, and if there is a potential fine hanging over my head for leaving in less than 24 months, what incentives or reasonable out clauses could I ask for to make it a fair deal? By the way, this is a non-union shop, so I'm very sure this would be a non-standard contract (and I am also sure that the other photogs are not under contract). Also, I am in California, which is an "at will" employment state, if that makes any difference.

Thanks for your help!
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Old 02-24-2006, 02:14 PM
thru-the-lens's Avatar
thru-the-lens thru-the-lens is offline
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George Atkins
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Talking MONEY! My free agent advice to photographers.

This contract is the perfect time to put in writing that "you will receive a 2 % raise quarterly for the duration of the contract."

Make sure that you get that phrase into your contract and you will be very happy to sign it. If they balk just remind them that it is only 2 % and smile.

Think about it. 2 % quarterly. It adds up. Now how did I learn of this neat negotiating technique. Because a weekend anchor/reporter had this in her contract and she pitched a fit if the station didn't put in her raise every quarter when it was due. What is good for them can be VERY GOOD for photographers placed under contracts!

There. Now you have your free no cost agent advice. Happy negotiations.

"Racing is Life! Anything that happens before or after is just waiting." --Steve McQueen
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Old 02-24-2006, 05:33 PM
breaking_in breaking_in is offline
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 6

Thanks Lens,

I've done some research in the meanwhile and am collecting a few other things to consider as well:

--striking catch-all phrases like "...and other duties as assigned" from the job description (management's get out of jail free card)

--refusing to wave my right to seek remedies to a dispute in a court of law (arbitration). Why? Because the arbitrator is inherently biased (probably only works with you once, but likely works with the company multiple times, or has potential to do so if decisions are favorable). Also, may cost significantly more than court, which could be a barrier to making a claim in the first place (small claims court in my county has a cap of $5K and costs about $30 to file).

But I guess I am digging around for more ideas and thoughts on how to protect myself, and most of all, limit my liability if, say, I HAVE TO MOVE OR QUIT for whatever reason. I'm certainly entering this thing in good faith, but I'm not too cool with the idea of working with a gun pointed at my head.

Do you think it would be fair to ask that the fine for breaking the contract not exceed my salary while "training" and any workshops, etc., that they send me to? (as if they actually would send me somewhere! lol).

And from you managers: besides the obvious, are there any other reasons or justifications for clamping a photog to a two-year contract? What would/could a small market station offer as incentive? Experience only? Are there any carrots in these agreements, or mostly just sticks?

Sorry if it seems like I'm trolling for free agent advice I'm just trying to keep a lid on the potential for animosity between the grunts and the management... I see this ties in with a few other threads on this board.

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Old 02-24-2006, 05:59 PM
Run&Gun Run&Gun is offline
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Is it truely locking you in to that job for two years, or is it a "non-compete", either way there is no way in Hell I'd ever sign something like that, especially in a small market! Like T-T-L said, if you're signing something that benefits them, make sure you get something, too.
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Old 02-24-2006, 06:39 PM
breaking_in breaking_in is offline
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 6


I'm in CA, which is at "at will" employment state, and it's my understanding (as told to me by my HR manager) that non-compete and moonlighting clauses are illegal or not binding here, but I may have totally misunderstood that.

Either way, its about being locked into a long agreement with a station that has difficulty recruiting qualified people, and very likely cannot offer much more salary (although I like the 2%/quarter thing --especially the part where I smile!).

So yeah, I'm looking for ways/language to reduce the burden, protect myself, and add benefits that don't necessarily require them to pay me (too much) more, which they would probably refuse to do.

I really hope this situation isn't the norm, or the trend in small markets these days.
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Old 02-24-2006, 08:55 PM
Imachief Imachief is offline
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 108

Breaking In is correct...non-compete clauses were struck down in CA. It was all over the trades in the last year or so.

Is a contract a bad thing? Maybe not. If, in fact, it really is a contract.

A contract is a legally binding document that protects BOTH parties from each other. There are EQUAL protections for BOTH sides. Anything else is probably a "personal service agreement".

Differences? For starters, a contract would spell out your duties...without exception. It would also provide a buy-out clause, in case management wanted to get rid of you.

Nothing like that in the stuff they're presenting you?...it's not a contract. Do NOT sign anything without having an attorney look it over first. Make sure you tell management you won't sign until your lawyer says OK. That will usually make them crap all over themselves! I love it when that happens!
" I shoot EVERYTHING with available light. There's all kinds of lights in my gear available to me on a moments notice."
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Old 03-02-2006, 03:13 AM
PhrozenPhoto PhrozenPhoto is offline
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Posts: 546
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I would second having an attorney look the contract over. Chances are the company has spent about 10k in fees to the law firm of Cover our Butts and Confuse em so they Work Cheap, LLC... and your attorney will probably find an average of 5 or so things that may or may not be dealbrakers, but may make you think a little bit before you sign. Google for your state bar's website if you don't have an attorney, chances are that website will have attorneys listed by specialty. Contract law should get you there... or at least a starting point and if a firm can't take you on chances are they can point you in the right direction.

P.S. as a legal disclaimer I cheated and married an attorney, but chances are we don't live in the same state, so she can't make any money off of your contract, but none the less I wouldn't sign without one!
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Old 03-02-2006, 07:11 PM
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1911A1 1911A1 is offline
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 754

Personally, I wouldn't sign a contract as a photog in a non-union situation unless they were paying me an obscene amount of money.

From what I've observed over the years, stations who make photogs sign contracts aren't necessarily the best ones to work for. There's a reason that they want to make someone stay there for a set amount of time...
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