What is “detrimental reliance”?

I relocated to a new city for a job that I was offered. After settling in I contacted the employer about my actual starting date and was informed it was going to be later than I was originally told. Then the employer refused to answer my calls and will not respond to voice messages, e-mails or text messages. This has caused me to spend a lot of money that I now feel was wasted. Can I sue?

Asked on October 24, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, North Carolina

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Detrimental reliance allows someone to enforce another's promise or representation, even in the absence of an actual contract or agreement, in the following circumstances:

1) Person A made some representation or promise to person B

2) It was reasonable for person B to rely on it

3) Person B did something to his detriment in that reasonable reliance

4) Person A either knew or should have known that person B would do what he did

If an employer makes a credible job offer to an out of town employee and should therefore know or expect that the employee would relocate on the basis of that offer, and the employee does, the employee may be able to hold the employer liable for the costs, etc. incurred as a result of that promise. From what you write, it would be worthwhile for you to consult in detail with an employee about the facts of your matter; you may have a legal claim or case. Good luck.


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