Any employment contract, whether a "standardized form" contract or an extensively and specially drafted agreement, should be analyzed before the employee enters into it. After all, the employer usually has a team of lawyers who have spent a great deal of time drafting such agreements with an eye toward creating as much advantage for the employer as possible (i.e., disadvantaging the employee).
As discussed in connection with our section on wrongful termination, in California there is a presumption that an employment relationship is "at will" absent an express or implied contract. Moreover, an employer may be "estopped" from claiming the employment is at will where the employer has made a promise it reasonably knew or should have known would cause the employee to believe a more permanent employment relationship existed, and the employee has "detrimentally relied" on that promise. This is known as "promissory estoppel," which although not a true contract claim, serves many of the same purposes.
When a contract exists, the terms of the contract will control. When the contract is silent as to particular terms, California law may imply certain terms, depending on the circumstances.
Thus, in any case involving a contract, it is important for the employee to collect all documents and create a summary of all verbal discussions which the employee believed was "the deal" between the employee and the employer.
As with most employment issues, contract claims are very fact specific and an attorney should be consulted in determining what if any action to take.
For relatively small expense, an attorney can review your employment agreement in order to identify any clauses which may be negotiable and any contract provisions which might be "deal breakers" for the employee.