Labor and Employment

New Hire Paperwork: What Will My Employer Ask Me to Sign?

By Lisa Guerin, ​J.D., Boalt Hall at the University of California at Berkeley
Learn about the types of documents you might be asked to sign on your first day.

Along with the excitement of landing a new job, most prospective employees feel at least a little bit anxious. In addition to taking on new tasks, meeting new coworkers, and figuring out a new commute, you’ll probably be asked to sign a small stack of new hire paperwork. This article explains the basic documents you can expect to see on your first day of work and what to consider before signing.

Government Forms

Although each company usually has its own new hire paperwork, there are also some standard government forms you'll be asked to sign. These are documents that your employer is required to obtain from you.

Work Verification

All new employees must complete Form I-9: Employment Eligibility Verification Form, issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The federal government requires employers to complete this form with all prospective employees, to make sure that you are legally authorized to work in the United States. The I-9 form verifies both your identity and your work eligibility.

In addition to filling out a section of the form, you will have to show your employer supporting documentation, such as a passport, driver’s license, Social Security card, and so on. The form explains what types of documents are acceptable.

Tax Forms

Because your employer needs to know how much to withhold from your paycheck for income taxes, it will ask you to complete IRS Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate. On this form, you provide your tax status (for example, single or married filing jointly) and how many allowances you are claiming. You may have to complete a similar form for state income tax purposes.

New Hire Reporting

You might also be asked to complete a new hire reporting form. Employers are required to report each new hire to a state agency, so that the state can identify individuals who owe child support. Some employers provide this information to the state without asking you to complete a form, however.

Work Permits and Age Certificates

If you are not yet 18, you may have to provide proof of your age or a written permission form to work. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the federal law that regulates child labor, prohibits minors from doing certain kinds of work until they reach a particular age. It also restricts the hours minors can work, particularly during the school year. Some states have similar laws, which may require additional paperwork. For example, you might have to provide a certificate from your school verifying that you are authorized to work. (See What Jobs Can Students and Minors Get? for more information.)

Employer Forms

In addition to the forms required by the state and federal government, your employer might provide you with additional paperwork to complete, such as:

  • Benefit forms. You might have to complete papers in order to sign up for health insurance, life insurance, the company’s 401k plan, an assigned parking space in the company lot, or other benefits.
  • Emergency contact forms. You’ll likely be asked to tell the company whom to contact in case of an emergency.
  • Handbook acknowledgment form. You might be asked to sign a form acknowledging that you have received the company’s employee handbook.
  • Employment contract. Your employer might ask you to sign an employment agreement, setting out the terms of your job. The contract will probably be an “at-will contract,” stating that you are employed at will and can be fired at any time. However, in some cases, an employer might agree to hire you for a particular length of time (such as one year).
  • Other contracts. Some employers ask employees to sign other types of contracts governing the employment relationship, including nondisclosure agreements (in which you agree to keep company information confidential), noncompete agreements (in which you agree not to compete with the company after your employment ends), and arbitration agreements (in which you agree to resolve disputes through arbitration rather than filing a lawsuit).

If you are presented with any contracts, especially a noncompete agreement, think twice before signing. These contracts can be complicated: They might ask you to give up rights that you would otherwise have. Before you agree to anything you are handed on the first day, read it carefully. If you have any questions or concerns, schedule a quick consultation with an attorney to make sure you understand what you are agreeing to.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • I was hired for a new job three months ago and I completed a Form I-9. If I get a new job, do I have to fill out another Form I-9?
  • Do my state withholding tax allowances have to match my federal withholding tax allowances?
  • Do I have to sign my employer’s arbitration agreement?
  • Should I sign an employment contract saying I’m employed at will if I was promised that I would have six months to learn the job?

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