Can legal action be taken against a company for extending a job offer and then taking it back after I quit my other job?

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Can legal action be taken against a company for extending a job offer and then taking it back after I quit my other job?

A company extended me a job offer and I accepted. They then emailed me benefit/employment papers and set a date of hire. I quit my other job and then the other company called to tell me a “hiring freeze” had been initiated and my job offer was no good anymore. Since I was hired before the job freeze, am I entitled to that job or anything at all?

Asked on October 3, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, North Carolina

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

You may have a legal claim to be hired, or at least receive compensation, and it would be worth your while to discuss the matter with an employment law attorney:

1) If they made a job offer and you accepted it, there may have been an enforceable contract; it depends on the language of the offer, the circumstances, etc., and your attorney can review this with you.

2) However, even when there is no enforceable contract per se, courts may hold that a party's promise is binding when the other party to the contract, in reasonable (i.e. the average person would have done it) reliance on a promise (like a firm job offer) takes some step to his or her detriment (like quitting a job), and the party making the promise knew or should have known that the person would do that detrimental thing (i.e. they knew you had the job) and wanted you to rely on their promise and take action based on it (i.e. they wanted you to take the job with them, o at least they did when the promise was made). From what you write, you may have enforceable rights under this legal theory, called "promissory estoppel." Good luck.


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