Is it legal to terminate an employee without reason and severance before the employee has even started their job?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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Is it legal to terminate an employee without reason and severance before the employee has even started their job?

Recently I was hired and signed a contract for a large school to work in their admissions office. The day of my contract signing I received a voicemail retracting their job offer that I had already signed. I had also already given my 2 weeks notice at my current job. This incident left me essentially jobless without reason for termination. Am I entitled to severance at minimum? If not, what are my next actions legally?

Asked on July 24, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Wyoming


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

From the facts given, you may well be a case where somethign known  as " promissory estoppel" or "detrimental reliance" applies. The key issue is if your prospective employer knew, or should have known, that withdrawing the job offer, you quit an existing job or turned down a different offer (if they knew or should have known of both, all the better). The elements of promissory estoppel/detrimental reliance claim are:

A person/entity (the promisor) made a factual promise/representation to another (the promisee);
It was reasonable for the promisee to rely on the promise;
The promisee did something to their detriment based on the promise;
The promisor either knew or should have known that the promisee would do what they did.

At this point you should consult with a local employment law attorney for further advice.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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