Are spoken job offers legally binding?

I had a phone interview for a job as school counselor last week, was called the next day and verbally offered the job, and then verbally confirmed for the the job after I drove 5 hours to the school site. The offer was rescinded yesterday. My references were favorable. Do I have recourse?

Asked on July 24, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Maine


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

A gratuitous promise is not legally enforceable. If you did not provide consideration for the job offer--something of value--then it likely did not constitute an enforceable contract, but rather was only a gratuitous promise, which may be disclaimed or rescinded.

There are some other grounds for enforcing promises, but like finding a contract, which requires consideration, they typically require you to pay or do something to your detriment. If you gave up an existing job, for example, to take this offer, and the employer knew or reasonably should have known that you would do this (e.g. you were employed at the time) and, knowing this, made you the offer anyway, that could be enough to enforce the offer under the theory of "promissory estoppel." But again, if you did not have to do or give up or pay anything of value for the job, then the employer could rescind the offer.

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.