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I've negotiated the terms of my employment contract and have inserted the following sentence into the contract...

No after-hours or post-employment restrictions and obligations other than what is stipulated in this letter of appointment alone shall be of any force or effect.

I'm concerned that I might have unwittingly written ambiguously. Is there any uncertainty to anyone here as to what this sentence means?

More specifically... as written, does No [...] restrictions and obligations mean...

1) No obligations that are also restrictions ...meaning that the sentence does NOT refer to obligations that aren't restrictions.

2) No restrictions and no obligations ...meaning that the sentence refers to restrictions of any kind as well as obligations of any kind, regardless of whether the said obligations are also restrictions or not.

3) Some other meaning I haven't thought of.

...?

I'm specifically asking here, because the interpretation of a contract rests heavily on its grammatical meaning. The contract is already signed, so I can't go and change anything now. I just want to know if the sentence is ambiguous or not regarding restrictions and obligations.

Thank you in advance!

EDIT :

I guess the question is whether "or" or "and/or" instead of "and" between "restrictions" and "obligations" would have made any difference to the meaning of the sentence. Consider these sentences...

It is not intended that this letter of appointment define all of the rights and obligations of the parties. Your employment is governed by the Employer’s policies and procedures, as occasionally amended in the sole discretion of the Employer.

a) No after-hours [...] restrictions and obligations [...] shall be of any force or effect.

b) No after-hours [...] restrictions or obligations [...] shall be of any force or effect.

c) No after-hours [...] restrictions and/or obligations [...] shall be of any force or effect.

(The initial sentence is to provide context and eliminate ambiguity regarding whether "after-hours" modifies "obligations" or not.)

So is there any difference in the meaning of the said three sentences? Sorry for being so pedantic about this. I just want to be sure whether the sentence using "and" is lawyer-proof or not. And whether most/all people would interpret the sentence as #1 or #2 above.

Thanks everyone.

  • 1
    I think you're over-analysing it. The intent and spirit of the sentence seem pretty clear to me, i.e. interpretation #2. If you or your employer end up in dispute over the exact literal application of this condition, the winner will be the lawyers. – Chappo Sep 10 '18 at 0:43
  • maybe there should be a comma after obligations and a comma after alone – jsotola Sep 10 '18 at 2:30
  • No restrictions and obligations sounds slightly strange. It's not a direct answer, but I would prefer a rephrasing using 'or'. Concerning after-hours and post-employment, no restrictions or obligations... – S Conroy Sep 10 '18 at 2:51
  • Also, be of any force or effect sounds odd. Better would be have any force or effect. – Jason Bassford Sep 10 '18 at 5:58
  • Thanks so far. I've edited my question and added extra explanations. – Askie Sep 10 '18 at 20:34
1

I'm keeping it short (cause it's difficult to cover everything):

1) - is definitely not the case.

2) - is the way it would be generally understood yes.

3) From a purely grammatical perspective, yes, there are multiple abiguities (not understanding at first what the sentence was saying perhaps helped me see this :P ).

You could have anything from:

The following shall be of no force or effect:

  • After hours
  • Post-employment restrictions and obligations other than what is stipulated in this letter of appointment

To:

The following shall be of no force or effect:

  • after hours or post-employment restrictions and
  • obligations other than what is stipulated in this letter of appointment alone

Sorry :P .

I'd not worry at all though, since I very much doubt that will be of any relevance whatsoever to you. (If you really want it waterproof though, I'd try asking at the law.stackexchange, or, of course, a lawyer...)

  • Thank you for your reassuring answer. I intended it to be understood as #2. But I then realised how "and" can be used as a logical operator (such as in programming) as opposed to "and" as a conjunction. Then my fears took over that I might have written in a loophole into the sentence. But since an unbiased outside-person like yourself confirmed that #1 is 'definitely' not the right interpretation, I feel less worried now. – Askie Sep 13 '18 at 20:12
  • I expect the reason why #1 would be wrong is because #1 would require the normal meaning of the word "obligations" to be narrowed down so drastically that it would amount to changing the word's meaning? Do you agree? The ambiguity you listed in #3 can fortunately be discounted, because the second interpretation would directly contradict the provision in my contract that I must obey my employer's policies, rules, regulations, etc. Therefore the first interpretation under #3 must be right. – Askie Sep 13 '18 at 20:13

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