Training Contracts, are they Enforceable?

DesertFalcon

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Question for all you lawyer types out there?:

What is the current legal status of the enforceability of employee/employer pilot training contracts?

According to "Black's Law Dictionary" these contracts would be defined as an "Adhesion Contract".

A standard form contract prepared by one party, to be signed by the party in a weaker position, usu. a consumer, who has little choice abot the terms- Also termed take-it-or-leave it contract; leonine contract; adhesory contrac; adhesionary contract.

If, the contract is signed from a position of weakness does this affect the enforceability?

What does't thou say you legal experts?


DesertFalcon ;)
 
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bobbysamd

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Adhesion contracts

First off, I'm not a lawyer. With that out of the way, I looked it up in my Black's, and, yes, you're right, an adhesion contract is a standard form that is basically take it or leave it. However, my Black's says that, "[h]owever, not every such contract is unconscionable." Black's Law Dictionary, abridged 6th. ed (1983), at p. 25. So, it might be a contract of adhesion, but it doesn't mean the court will set it aside. You would have to prove that you really had no choice but to sign it.

An important word about proof. The proof must rise to a very high level to sustain a case. People are very quick to pull the trigger and threaten suit when things happen that they don't like. The Rules of Court say that when a lawyer signs his/her name to suit papers that he/she is certifying that he/she has read the papers and is certifying that the complaint is well grounded in facts and law. Otherwise, the lawyer risks dismissal of the case and being responsible for the Defendant's attorneys' fees and costs, etc. because it was a frivilous claim. So, you can bet your a$$ that the lawyer will be sure that a case is very strong before filing suit. Plenty of bad things happen to people, but they don't always rise to the level that would merit a full-blown legal claim. I know that sucks, that you can't always get redress in the legal system, but that's how it is sometimes.

Usually, training contracts are pro-rated over their lifetime. So, let's say you sign a training contract in which you agree to reimburse the company $1K. You leave shortly thereafter, so you are responsible, theoretically, for the $1K. But, as the contract winds down, the payback amount goes down. You leave before the contract is up and the company decides if it is worth it to to pursue collection action against you. Sometimes, pursuing the claim may cost more than the amount you owe and the company might decide just to write it off.

I signed a standard form training contract when I went to work for FlightSafety nearly eleven years ago. I left after a year, but with two months left on my contract. No one said a thing.

Hope that helps a little.
 
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skydiverdriver

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Hey Jim,
Do you think the company's that make us sign these things have integrity? What if they are illegal? Same answer?
 

navigator72

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My $.02

You did sign a contract...It is safe to assume that you did read the contract and didn't have gun to your head. Unless it is for a good reason, such as a saftey concern or being asked to engage in illegal activities. I would own up to the contract and be a pilot with some integrity.

Give us some insight to your story?
 

de727ups

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Huh?
Integrity?

I say when airlines start treating their pilots with integrity, you should treat them back with them same. It's a personal choice...if the company has treated you like dirt...I'd walk away from the contract. If you walk away feeling guilty about it, then they haven't been treating you too bad and you should pay it off. You risk legal action if you break the contract. Try to find out how it's worked out for others who haven't paid, if you can.

Scenic has always had low pay....perhaps they should pay their pilots more if they don't like the turnover rates.
 

gsrcrsx68

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Look at the possible effects of what you are saying and then ask if it is reasonable to walk away.

For example, if it was ethical or legal for weaker parties to walk away the next step would be to take away the abilities of weaker parties to enter in to legal contracts. Doesn't sound so great.


So "walking away" is wrong. I guess you could consider it a protest and claim they didn't live up to a part of their agreement with you.
 

tdvalve

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Jim posted:

"People are always equating PFT with a lack of professionalism. Well breaking a training contract without paying is the same thing. And it's also one of the justifications airlines use for PFT - control pilot training costs due to high turnover. "

The problem with training contracts is that they're binding only on one party: The employee must agree to work for a period of time, but the employer is under no obligation to provide the employment. This disparity has led to most being declared unenforcable when the matter ends up in court. Scholars look back in horror on the practice of bondage that was common in the early days of our history, and judges generally put training contracts on the same scale.

The pilot signing a training contract has agreed to work for the company in question no matter what the working conditions and airworthiness of the equipment, and regardless of reductions in pay and benefits. On the other hand, the company can fire, lay off, or go out of business without regard to the effect on an employee. The employee may have incurred considerable expense relocating for the job, and likely turned down or stopped pursuing other employment, but this is not recognized in most contracts. The financial cost to most pilots going to a new job exceeds the cost of the training, yet the employee has no way to recoup expenses if the deal goes sour due to the fault of the employer.

The major problem for a pilot who leaves early is that companies routinely turn the matter over to a third-party collection agency. It will probably take at least a letter from a lawyer threatening a damage suit to get them off your back and to keep your credit history clean.
 

capt_zman

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You received 100% of the training, you should honor 100% of the contract. Right on Jim.
 

bobbysamd

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Contracts

One other point on which I wasn't clear enough above. Although the contract could be a contract of adhesion, you might have to do quite a bit of convincing to prove it. This is because such training contracts are an extremely common business practice. People sign them all the time, and that makes them acceptable and not necessarily unconscionable. Moreover, you can be sued for breach of contract. I was saying above that depending on the amount owed on the contract they might opt to forget about it - but, they might not.

Just something else to consider.

TDvalve's comments above are well-taken and well-reasoned. Let me suggest a good book on employment law, Every Employee's Guide to the Law, by Lewin G. Joel, III, ISBN: 0-679-75867-4. I found it on bn.com and used copies are available on amazon.com. Something like $15 at bn.com for the newest edition. It is an excellent book on general employment law, including hiring practices and unions, and is well documented.
 
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Caveman

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Jim you are wasting your time. There are two kinds of folks in the world. There are those that honor their word and there are those that don't. Those that don't will rationalize and make excuses to justify their weaknesses. Sadly, they see folks like you and I as foolish. You will never change their minds.

I turned down a job with Scenic because I knew I wouldn't be able to honor the training contract and I couldn't afford to pay them back. I was furloughed at the time.

It doesn't matter whether or not the contract is fair. If you signed it and the company upheld their end you are morally obligated to honor your end of the bargain. Like it or not. It's called character.
 

Dep676

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I have heard that they wouldn't stand up in a court of law if they tried to go after you. I asked a company that I interviewed with about a contract. They said they don't make you sign one because their lawyer told them that a contract wasn't valid. The reason they gave was that they couldn't hire you and put you in aircraft that you never flown before. So they didn't make you sign one until they upgraded you. Because they sent all there new hires to SIC school and didn't type you. If you want to leave before it expires try and get your new employer to pay it off. If they want you bad enough they will do that for you. I hear of places doing that all the time. Hope this rambling makes sense. I tried to make it. Good Luck.
 

KlingonLRDRVR

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Enforcable - short answer is yes.

tdvalve did bring up some good points. As always the devil is in the details. If the employer can show a reasonable relationship to the amount of money they put out to train you and you agree to it and sign it prior to employment or additional training it is likely enforceable on its face. Its a two way street. It costs the employer a lot to enforce either through attorneys or giving it up to a collection agency who by the way usually has an attorney and as an employee. It costs a lot for an employee to defend any type of action. Some contracts are actually somewhat fair as they are enforceable by the management should the employee leave on their own free will or fired for cause not just laid off becuse times are slow. In the end a judge will ask did the employee know what he was signing and did the employer do anything unreasonable to force him or her out. If you've got enough money you can tilt the balance almost anyway you want. Question is, do you have enough money to play that game? The above is a large part why I left the law. Prior to law school I just believed the justice bar was set higher than I found it to be in real life.

My advise is the same to employers and employees. If you tend to enter into a written contract you had better research all possibilities to your best effort (not necessarily your own - get help if you need it) and put only what you both agree to in writting and honor it. In the end you still have to look in that mirror at the end of the day and ask "Do I still come from a honorable house". Make the Klingon Empire proud.

KlingonLRDRVR
 
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DesertFalcon

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Well, it seems that everyone agrees, mostly, that "Training Contracts" are enforceable. If this is the case then I guess the individual needs to look at the value of signing the contract.

Is the time period of the contract too long?
Is the type rating or training of any value in the market?

Can the individual afford the terms of the contract?
Will the individual have future benefit by signing the contract?

How will the terms of the contract adversely affect the future life of the signer?

What are the escape clauses?

Etc. Etc..........

DesertFalcon
 

bobbysamd

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Sometimes, you just have to be practical

Only my opinion, but if a training contract would have stood in my way of that commuter job I had coveted for so long, and everything else was equal, I would have signed it in a minute and with no compunction whatsoever. I looked at it this way. Chances are, I will be at the place for the duration of the contract, so, the length really didn't matter. So, as a practical matter, I was betting that my term of employment would outlive the contract. I never had a problem with training contracts, for the reasons that others mentioned above.

Many contracts which are forms with your names filled in may appear to be adhesion contracts. In theory, they might be. Once again, that theory will fail if use of these forms are a common business practice.
 

pilotyip

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Training Contract

We have a training contract at USA Jet, 18K 24 months, I hate and wish we did not have it, but due to the behavior of some of our new hires we put one in place. We had a pilot who had a job somewhere else the other company told him to get trainined at USA Jet and we will hire you, he quit the instant the sim was shut down after his PC ride. Only cost us about 15K. We work in a terrible business on-demand air freight, so we want to scare you away with the contract if you really don't want to work, seems to be working. On the plus side it includes type ratings in both the DA2-0 and DC-9 if you hang around long enought to bid the seat. All the July new hires have no problem with the contract and they start at 33K per year.
 

flydog

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Its all about integrity. If you promise to stay wether you have a contract or not you stay unless there is a mitigating circumstance.

At my company if you wish to upgrade to a larger aircraft such as a Challenger they require a 1 yr contract. Its a $32,000 type rating so they dont realize much return on their investement if you leave for an airline after 3 months. Also they could choose to bypass promoting from within and hire street Captains. I prefer the contract. Also if they fire you or let you go for whatever reason the contract is null and void. It is only if you quit.

As far as signing a contract with a new company I would try to make it a 2 way contract in that whatever promises they make are binding on them or the contract is void. If they are not willing to do this then the job isnt worth it and the promises they make are empty.

In my opinion if a company entices you to take a job by promoting rapid upgrade (we have all heard that one) and when the time comes they hire off the street because its cheaper I say screw them and their contract. Integrity is a two way street

Also keep in mind that wether a contract in enforceable or not is irrelevant when you spend $30,000 to defend yourself from a lawsuit.
 

skydiverdriver

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Jim
Who cares if they are legal? Well, I do. Because if they are illegal, then it's the company's integrity that we should call into question, not the pilot's.
 

Dep676

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I still don't think they are worth the paper they are written on. But now a days the way the market is I would think companies wouldn't make you sign them. I would just be happy to have a job. I would sign them just to make them happy and would probably stay. I have found the companies that make you sign them either don't pay very well or isn't the greatest place to work anyway. That's just my 2 cents though. If they pay good and treat you good you will probably stay anyway.
 

skydiverdriver

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Exactly. The place where I had to sign was so difficult to upgrade, that they had to keep you somehow. I liked the job, but without pic time, I was stuck as an FO. I finished my contract, but always wondered if they were legal or not. I think these people keep bringing up the integrity issue because they are employers who know they are not illegal, or other employees who don't want to see someone else excersize their rights. Just my opinion.
 

Thedude

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I see nobody has metioned a contract signed under duress. The company I work for decided to pop a contract on a new hire class on the first day. Not enforceable due to the fact that all of the new hires had left their previous employment for new employment and the contract was never metioned until the first day of class. Kinda underhanded company tactic by any view.
 
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