If I’ve been offered a job that requires me to move my family 1,600 miles away, how can I protect myself in the event that the job doesn’t materialize?

The owners are very vague and leaving many loopholes, along with constantly changing my date of hire. The job requires me to live on-site, so everything relies on my start date. I am worried that I will relocate my family to a job that doesn’t exist when I arrive placing my family in a terrible situation. I am wondering what steps I can take to ensure my family’s safety if the owners are giving me false information and I arrive to nothing. In other words, are there legal steps to ensure I am compensated for my loss if the owners turn out to have given false information and I am stuck with my family half way across the country?

Asked on September 7, 2014 under Employment Labor Law, Washington

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

If the owner is knowing lying at this time, then you may be able to sue the owner or company for fraud if they caused you some loss due to their lies. However, if they are not lying but circumstances change later, that is not fraud.

If you relocate your family or leave an existing job based on a promise of employment and when you get there, there is no job for  you, you may have a cause of action based on "promissory estoppel," or the fact that the owner deliberately made promises to you to get you to do things, and you did those things, which can make the promise(s) enforceable. But if there is a job waiting for you but after some days or weeks, you are fired for some problem--even just a bad "fit," a personality clash, or difficulty getting up to speed fast enough--or the job goes away (such as if an account is lost or funding cut), or the whole company or division or office is closed, that is not a breach of promise; the promise does NOT obligate them to give or guaranty you a job for the indefinite future, but just to have a job for you when you get there.

The problem is, all employment is employment at will; the presumption is that, absent special circumstances (like the employer lying to you about a job existing), you can be fired or denied employment at any time, for any reason.

The only way to protect yourself and your family is with a written, signed employment contract, which guarantees you either employment for a given period at a given salary, or else guarantees you some severance if the job goes away or you are fired (other than for cause; employment contracts typically do not protect you if you are fired for good cause, like unexecused or excessive absenteeism, violating compan policy, etc.)

If the employer will not give you an employment contract to protect you in a situation like this, you may wish to rethink whether you wish to take this job and work for  them; given that you are moving 1,600 miles, reasonable employers would typically give you and your family at least some protection. With some agreement, you are amost entirely unprotected.


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 AttorneyPages.com 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.