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I recently took a position with a state university. Throughout the interview process the position was portrayed as a solo job and non-supervisory. It was also indicated that the shared office would be shared with a part time intern. Based on this information, I accepted their initial offer. Then, 5 days before I was to start and after I had already resigned my last job and signed a lease in a new town, I received a call from the hiring manager. She indicated that the interim holder of the position who applied but was not hired for the role would be staying on and that I would be supervising her. She also informed me that I would now be sharing the office with a full-time staff person. In order to protect the feelings of this individual, I was asked to take the much smaller workstation in the office and was intentionally excluded from a number of important meetings. My role was rolled out in the most minimal way. Flash forward 3 months and nothing has changed. I have worked in good faith with management to help resolve these issues, however they’ve indicated there’s nothing they can do and that it is their expectation that I simply man up and be the boss. Keep in mind, I never wanted to be the boss, I’m not getting paid to be the boss, and they failed to treat me like the boss from day one. I gave up a lot to be here and am now looking at resigning. I do not believe that I was treated honestly or fairly in this process and that the organization withheld critical information that was necessary for me to evaluate their offer and the position in its entirety. Do I have any legal recourse?
Asked on December 11, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Virginia
SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney
Answered 5 years ago | Contributor
Unfortunately, all employment is "employment at will" unless you had an actual written employment contract for a definite or defined term (e.g. a one-year contract). If you had such a contract, you could enforce its terms if such helped you--such as if they defined the features, duties, etc. of your job. You could, if necessary, sue for "breach of contract" if it were violated.
But as stated, when there is no contract, employment is employment at will. That means, among other things, that the employer may change your job at will: alter responsibilities, authority, where you work or the space you get, compensation, hours, location, title, etc. ALL aspects of a job are under the employer's control when there is no employment contract; the job is simply whatever the employer wants it to be. So your employer could freely change your job in these ways unless the nature of your job was fixed by contract, and you have no recourse against the employer. There are simply no guarantees or surities in work without a written contract.
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