Can my husband file a lawsuit against the company where he works?

My husband has been working at his current job through an employment agency for
just a little over a year. About three months ago he was told that the company
where he works wanted to hire him directly. Finally about two weeks ago he was
told that they were ready to hire him. He was sent an email with a link to the
job application. My husband does not have a high school diploma/GED which was
one of the questions on the application. My husband was honest and said that he
did not have one. A few days later he received an offer letter that stated
start date, wage, benefits and that the offer was contingent upon a physical
exam and a background check. My husband notice that the starting wage was the
same amount as what he is making through the employment agency. He decided to
ask the GM at the company about and was told that this was because he has no
high school diploma/GED. The GM told my husband that if would agree to take the
job if he got paid an additional 0.50 per hour. My husband said yes to that. A
couple days after that my husband was told that the company was not going to
hire him because he does not have a high school diploma/ged. Can the company do
this after they already knew this and offered him a job in writing? The company
is ok with him not having a high school diploma as long as he works through the
employment agency.

Asked on March 12, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, Minnesota


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

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

Most employment relationships are "at will" which means that a company can set the conditions of the workplace much as it sees fit (absent some form of legally actionable discrimination). That is unless there exists an employment contract or union agreement to the contrary. There is also a potential claim under something called "promissory estoppel" also known as "detrimental relaince". This is a legal remedy whereby one party has a legal duty to fulfill obligations under the terms of a contract (written or oral) in order to prevent the other party from experiencing an unjust loss. Basically, it can be used to enforce a contract if an obligated party does not want to fulfill their responsibilities. However, for a successful claim 5 elements must be proven: (1) that a promise was made; (2) there was actual reliance on the promise; (3) such relaince was reasonable and/or forseeable; (4) the reliance was detrimental (i.e. a harm was suffered); and (5) an injustice can only be prevented by enforcing the promise. At this point, your husband may want to directly consult with an attorney who can best advise further after reveiwing all of the details of the situation.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately, he can't sue them for withdrawing or reneging on the offer, even if it was in writing: employment in this country is "employment at will" and that means (among other things) that an employer is free to withdraw a job offer at any time (just like they could terminate an employee at any time). The only time they could not withdraw the order would be if he had an actual written contract, not just an offer letter: to be a contract, it must have had a start date and been for a set or defined period of time, like a one-year contract. If it wasn't for a set period of time, it did not alter the employer's power or right to withdraw the offer whenever they wanted.

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