I think my hiring was an intentionally deceptive bait switch. Is this legal / do i have any recourse?

Last June, I had applied for a job with this company. They interviewed me, eventually told me that the contract they were hiring for had fallen through, so they didn’t have any job openings after all. OK, no harm no foul.

This December, I heard back from them again – they have a new contract, they’re hiring again, they’d like to hire me based on my previous interview. Great. They’re in a hurry to hire me quick, I go through all the usual background check, tests, paperwork, etc… but as soon as I’ve come in and finished signing the last bit of pre-hire paperwork and have officially been hired, I hear the bad news. The contract has been pushed back, so I can’t actually start yet. They hope it’ll be ready soon, though.

They string me along for a couple months, I have no work and no pay. Finally they tell me, hey, the contract got pushed back again… but if you want some work in the meantime, we could put you in the mail room? I figure, sure. It’s a paycheck, and the same pay, despite being a very different job that I didn’t sign up for.

So I’ve started working there, and am getting hours and pay, but I’ve learned some things that are setting off warning bells. This mail room job is also project-based, and it’ll be ending very soon. It is also known to be a project where there are big spikes and big lulls in activity – oppurtunities for overtime, and then being sent home for lack of work. And I’m not the first.

There was a big batch of people ‘hired’ back in December – a few of them at a time were given the mail room option. Once they hit a lull and the people weren’t getting hours or had just gotten fed up and left, they’d offer a couple more people the mail room option. This mail room project started not long after we were all ‘hired’ for the other job, it was a known annual thing. And now we’re being told the contract we were actually hired for has fallen through.

Also, I discovered that this contract we were hired for is NOT a new one – it is the same one from last summer, that’s been delayed this whole time. We were not told this, we were told the opposite.

In short… while I think there was an actual pending deal that they would have transferred us over to work on if it had gone through, the circumstances around our hiring were really suspicious. Especially because they STILL have ads posted for the job I’d applied for, and none for this mail room job.

Do I have a case here for like false/deceptive advertising, or being hired under false pretenses? I kind of doubt it, but it’d be nice if I could get compensation for a couple months’ lost wages while I was being a sucker and waiting on the job I was hired for instead of looking for something else.

Yes, I know now that I’m a sucker and that I shouldn’t’ve trusted them, no need to tell me.

Asked on March 29, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, Minnesota

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

No, unfortunately you do not have a claim:
1) All employment is employment at will in this country (unless you had a signed written contract from them for a set period of time, like a one-year contract, with a definite start date), so they had obligation to hire or employ you and you had no guaranty of work or pay. They could offer you a job, pull back, offer you a job, pull back, change what they offered you, start you then have the project or job terminate, etc. and that is all legal.
2) They did not cause you to "wait on a job"--you can and should have been looking for other work, too. They had nothing to do with you not working for several months, since--given employment at will--you had no guaranty of this job or right to count on it and should have been looking for other positions. Since they did not prevent you from taking other employment, they are not liable for lack of wages.


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