If I got a job offer and quit my current job but now the offer start date is TBD, is that legal?

I have a question about job offers and the hiring process. I applied for a position, filled out paperwork, got a call back and was told my start date would be last Friday. I was working another job at the time and was informed to let them know I would be leaving basically putting in a 2 weeks notice which I did. Then, last Thursday the day before I was supposed to start the new job, I got a call from the company that said

Asked on September 1, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Texas

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

As a general matter, employment in this country is "employment at will" which, among other things, means that employers typically have full control over hiring and firing, including start dates, unless and only if here is a written contract which guarantees a position or start date.
There is a legal doctrine called "promissory estoppel" which *may* be able to help you, if you sue your new employer--a drastic move--for the loss caused by the delayed start. To use promissory estoppel, which can hold a non-contractual promise enforceable, you need all the following to occur:
1) Someone made you a promise, like of a new job with a given start date;
2) To act on that promise, you'd have to do something to your detriment, like leaving an existing job; 
3) The person making you the promise knew *at the time they made the promise*--not later--that you'd have to do that thing to your detriment;
4) Even though they knew the above, they still made you the promise; and 
5) It was reasonable for you to rely on the promise--no reason to doubt it.
Even if all 5 elements above are met, it's still far sure that you'd prevail on a promissory estoppel claim in this case, since holding an employer to a non-contractual promise goes directly against employment at will, or the employer's right to decide on when, with whom, etc. to start employment, and courts are generally reluctant to overturn employment at will. However, it still represents your only chance for compensation for not getting the job or the delay in the job.


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