Job offered and accepted, then someone else was hired...

I recently applied for a vendor (based in NY) rep position at a department store in Ohio. After faxing in my resume, I received a call right away that I was "approved for the job", discussed and agreed upon a rate, was told that a packet of paperwork would be sent my way immediately, and that the company's hiring manager was flying out in 2 weeks to "get me started as soon as possible". He also said "So, you are the new [company name] Girl at [store], aren't you excited??"
Because of this offer and the attractive money that was being offered, I quit my previous job working for a cosmetics company. After the company's rep delayed flying to Ohio for more than 3 weeks, I met him at the store for what I thought would be my first day of work. Instead when I got there, I found out it was an interview, and that they had brought in two other candidates for the position. After not returning my phone calls for 2 MORE weeks, the company's rep finally called me back to tell me that they were hiring someone else. Do i have any kind of case, even if just for lost wages? I lost about a month of work because of this and cannot pay my bills, and also I had stopped my job search during this time, so it will be a while before I start getting paid again. I expressed my frustration to the rep and he admitted that he had offered the job and reneged, but merely said "things change in business".

1 answer  |  asked Apr 19, 2007 12:01 PM [EST]  |  applies to Ohio

Answers (1)

Neil Klingshirn
The doctrine of detrimental reliance

This is a tough situation. The legal questions are 1) whether you entered into a contract of employment; 2) if so, did the employer breach that agreement by giving the job to someone else; and 3) whether you relied to your detriment on the promise of a new job to quit your old job.

It appears that you did enter into an employment agreement. The company offered employment on specific terms, which you accepted. You therefore probably had an employment agreement.

The problem with this agreement is that it is probably at-will, meaning the employer could terminate the employment at any time, for any reason, or for no reason. Unless the contract had a specific term of employment or stated that you could only be terminated for cause, it was at will.

If your agreement was employment at-will, then the employer was free to terminate your employment even before it began. Therefore, although there was an employment agreement, it probably was not breached by terminating it.

Another way to attack a situation like this is with the doctrine of promissory estoppel. That is a doctrine that helps an employee who has not entered into an employment agreement but nonetheless acted in reasonable reliance on an employer's promise of a job. This doctrine is also known as the doctrine of detrimental reliance.

Unfortunately, I do not think that this doctrine will help you here. Again, the reason is that, absent a promise of employment for a specific term, such as a year or five years, the only thing that you could reasonably rely upon was the promise of at-will employment. As a result, I do not see a legal claim arising out of these facts.

That said, the facts and circumstances of your situation are unfair enough that you might be able to appeal to the sympathy of someone at the company. Write a letter similar to your Ask MEL question and ask the company to be responsible by covering the wages that you lost. It might result in a favorable decision.

Best regards,


posted by Neil Klingshirn  |  Apr 19, 2007 1:00 PM [EST]

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