What to do if I was laid off with no warning?

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What to do if I was laid off with no warning?

I am 18. I was working for a woman as her nanny for about a month. Then over a text message she told me that she has to decline my care for the forseeable future because of a family emergency. I asked her questions, such as how long and tried to discuss it, but she has not contacted me back for a week. When I started working for her I was also working a 2nd job. She told me that she needed me to be dependable and needed my 110% focus. She said I could quit my 2nd job because I would be stable with the income that I would receive from her. So I did. Now, I’m without employment with notice not even face-to-face contact. One text message and that was all. Is this legal?

Asked on June 21, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Vermont

Answers:

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

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Typically, in an "at will" employment arrangement, an employee can choose to work for a specific employer or not and can quit at any time. Conversely, an employer has agreat deal of discretion in setting the terms and conditions of employment and can terminate an employee for any reason or no reason, with or without notice. This can be done, face-to-face, in a letter of termination, or (as in your case) by text message. So unless there was a controlling agreement providing otherwise (such as an employment contract), your discharge was legal.

However, you may still have some legal rights here. There is something in the law known as "detrimental reliance", also known as "promissory estoppel". This is an equitable remedy that a court can invoke to prevent an injustice. Yours might be such a case.

Detrimental reliance allows someone to enforce another's promise (or representation) even if there is no actual contract (or agreement) in the following circumstances:

  1. Person A made a factual promise (or representation) to Person B;
  2. It was reasonable for Person B to rely on the promise;
  3. Person B did something to his detriment based on the promise;
  4. Person A either knew or should have known that person B would do what they did.

So (as in your case) if you employer made a credible job offer with the proviso that your give up other employment and you did so based on the representation that you would have a stable income for the foreseeable furure, then may be able to hold the employer liable for your lost income incurred as a result. From the details that you have provided, you may want to consult directly with an employment law attorney and go over the details of your situation to see if you have a legal claim and one worth pursuing.


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