When a Contract is not…

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You’ve sent that document to the client.  And, you are looking forward to receiving the signed contract back and getting to work.  And, here, it is now.  You look it over and sign your copy and send to the client.  Everything’s great, right?

NO!

Forget about the fact that you knew that sending a Word document was changeable, so you made a PDF version and sent it.  But, that is definitely not true.

First of all, you can compare documents easily with Word- so the changes should be evident.  (But, we don’t recommend the use of Word, since even a signature can make the document different.)   But, you need to run a compare document any time you rely on mail, fax, or eMail for contracts.  Unless you are present and can insure that the document has never been changed- assume it has.

Here’s a real life example that is moving through the courts right now to explain the consequences of not checking carefully.

The Chanel Corporation fired Anu Allen, and sent her a severance agreement, with John Brown’s signature affixed.  Anu dutifully signed the document and returned it to Chanel.  Chanel  reviewed the signature, paid the severance, and sang their personal praises of good riddance.

Except Anu has filed for discrimination against Chanel.  Chanel is flabbergasted.  It knew it had a release from Anu.  Except Anu had retyped one page of the document (or edited it carefully) to insure that the same font and margins applied on the changed page of the document.

[I need to notify you that I have worked with an individual who was also terminated by Chanel, about the same time.  However, he followed my advice and with the additional help of a great labor lawyer, he received what he deserved.  For a very lengthy service record (and successful one, to boot) prior to being notified of his termination; he might have been the subject of age discrimination.]

The key word Anu had changed was “including” to “excluding”.  That change meant she was not releasing certain claims, but making sure she could act on them in the future.  And, now this case is being heard in Federal Court (12 CV 6758, in New York State).

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icon for PDF files (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While Chanel alleged that Anu had given up all claims by signing the “release”, the Court, using the document signed by both parties, determined that Anu Allen clearly had an intent to file a discrimination suit against Chanel- and never waived her right to file that claim- regardless of the standard Chanel Separation Release Agreement said.

So, don’t assume- ever- that the document you receive back is the same one you sent!

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