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Can I Sue for a Rescinded Job Offer?
A rescinded job offer is when a prospective employer presents an offer of employment and then withdraws it. This may happen before or after you formally accept the offer. Typically, employers word these offers carefully as a form of legal protection against a lawsuit in the event the offer must be withdrawn. This may happen for a number of reasons, such as an organizational restructuring in which the position is no longer required.
This careful wording protects the employer and typically includes verbiage stating that the offer is contingent upon certain conditions being met, such as a drug test or criminal background check, and rarely will include the word "contract." Even this case, however, there may be instances making a successful lawsuit possible.
Do You Have an Employment Contract?
Most American employees are what is called "at-will" employees. This means either the employee or the employer may end the employment relationship at any time, so long as no law is broken, such as firing an employee based on discriminatory reasons.
If the job offer you received was for at-will employment, you likely have no legal claim. Even if your prospective employer offered you an employment contract and not an offer letter, if it was for at-will employment, you still likely have no claim. In reality, the employer could have allowed you to begin work and then terminated you on your first day without facing consequences.
An exception might be if the contract or offer letter you signed contained verbiage guaranteeing you work for a certain amount of time as long as you do not give the employer cause to fire you. This may offer a possibility of suit for breach of contract. The same is true if you had a verbal offer, though this is much more difficult to prove.
What is a Promissory Estoppel Claim?
Promissory estoppel is a legal term meaning that a promise has been made in which the promisee, in this case the prospective employee, takes action based on a reasonable assumption based on the promise made. In other words, someone made you promise that you believed and, in good faith, you took certain actions and then suffered harm when the promise was broken.
This applies to a rescinded job offer in a number of ways. For example, you may have quit your current job in anticipation of starting this new position. If the new position requires relocating, you may have even placed your home for sale and moved to this new location. If you made drastic changes like this in good faith then you may have a promissory estoppel claim. Not all states recognize promissory estoppel claims, however. An employment lawyer can explain the laws in your state.
Can I Sue my Employer for Fraudulent Misrepresentation?
This is rare, but if you can prove an employer misrepresented either the position or the intention to hire you, you may be able to sue for fraudulent misrepresentation. You must prove both reliance and damages to be successful. Again, these suits are rare because they are so difficult to prove. As in most lawsuits, not all states recognize these suits. An employment lawyer can advise you.
What Damages Can You Recover for a Rescinded Job Offer?
Even if you do have a viable suit, typically damages are limited, as you must prove some sort of loss. In the event you have a contract including a measurable period of employment, you are entitled to, at most, the length of time in the contract. However, the amount you can earn in that same period offsets those damages. You cannot simply sit home for that same time period and collect that year of pay. You must seek another position. If you find one within two months, then you receive only two months' salary from the rescinded job. Even if you were to receive a full year's salary, the time and effort of a court case, plus the expense of your attorney's fees, mean pursuing this case is hardly worth it (unless the salary promised was substantial).
Damages in a promissory estoppel case depend on state law. Typically, these will include any financial losses incurred due to your reliance on the rescinded job offer, such as moving expenses. State law also determines damages in a fraud claim. In both instances, an employment lawyer explains the worth of your case.
Schedule a Free Consultation with an Employment Lawyer
If you are the victim of a rescinded job offer, schedule a free consultation with an employment lawyer to determine the viability of your case and whether it makes sense to file suit. He or she will advise you on the laws in your state and if pursuing your case is the smart choice.