Whether you are about to take a job at a new company or that new company is laying you off, there are some best practices everyone should be doing to safeguard themselves from accidentally getting themselves into situations they didn’t mean to when signing documents or agreeing to abide by things (employee handbooks, etc.).

In case you don’t already have this as a standard practice PLEASE make sure you:

  1. read everything – all of it – before you sign it or agree to abide by it (if it’s something you don’t sign – like an employee handbook) – and make them wait, they can’t/shouldn’t rush you when it comes to signing any legal document
  2. initial every page of a document you are signing – yes every page
  3. read everything before you sign it or agree to abide by it
  4. request a copy of the countersigned version for your records (and make sure they give you a copy of ALL the pages of said document – which you just initialed, of course – so that you have a copy of exactly what you signed/agreed to [assuming no funky business with Acrobat/Photoshop], not just their base document they attached on top of the page where you signed)
  5. read everything before you sign it or agree to abide by it
  6. keep copies of everything official during any hiring, promotion, HR, termination, etc. processes – preferably with a digital version you’ve backed up as well as a physical copy – and save off any emails for you to retain personally
  7. make sure you keep separate copies for anything that gets updated – e.g. have a copy of the handbook as it was in January 2012 (and make sure that’s dated even if just in the file name) and then a copy of the updated handbook from March 2015 (preferably with a copy of the memo/email stating it was updated if it doesn’t show a revision date) so you can refer back to what the policy was at the time of any given incident
  8. read everything before you sign it or agree to abide by it
  9. feel free to talk to a lawyer before signing things – a company is in the wrong if they won’t give you a reasonable amount of time before signing employment agreements, termination agreements, etc.
  10. read everything before you sign it or agree to abide by it
  11. with or without a lawyer’s help feel free to try and negotiate as well as ask clarifying questions or make requests before signing stuff – e.g. if the employer wants to have a stupid non-compete agreement you can make sure wording is added in that area (with initials from both sides on the changes) that says it only can be enforced if you voluntarily leave, not if they fire you or lay you off
  12. read everything before you sign it or agree to abide by it
  13. make sure you get the copy or save off the copies/emails at the time or immediately after that event occurs – it is better to do this now when it’s “normal” than in case something goes terribly wrong and you need to trust things weren’t lost or “misplaced”

Lastly, read everything before you sign it or agree to abide by it. 😉

Do you have other standard best practices? Feel free to drop your non-legally binding suggestions down in the comments section below.

Note: This should also be standard practice with >anything< you sign - apartment leases or mortgage papers, loans, etc. (Standard disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, this does not construe legal advice, consult an attorney as needed.)