Is it legal for a company to hire you and then to tell you that they have decided to hire a friend instead?

I was hired at a small specialty retail shop. I filled out all the new hire paperwork, including a W-4. I was told to call them that same evening to find out what my schedual would be. When I called I spoke to the owner (who hired me) and she informed me that after I had left from doing my paperwork a friend of hers came in and needed a job with a lot of hours, so she decided to hire him instead but that I can call in a month and see if they need any more help then. That was it. Is this leagal? Are there papers I am suppose to fill out with her company since I was hired and then not?

Asked on May 22, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

It is legal in the vast majority of cases, since employment is normally employment-at-will: that is, either the employer or the employee can normally terminate the employment relationship at any time, for any reason, without notice--including before you even actually start the job. The exceptions, or when it would not be legal:

1) You had an actual employment contract guarantying you the job for some set period of time; if so, you may enforce it.

2) In order to take the job, you had to do something significant to your detriment or disadvantage, like relocating or giving up an existing job; the prospective employer knew you would have to do that thing to take the job, but made you the offer anyway; it was reasonable for you to rely on the offer (e.g. there was no reason to think it was not firm) and, in reasonable reliance on it, you did that thing to your detriment. If all these conditions are made, then under the doctrine of "promissory estoppel," the employer may be "estopped"--or prevented--from dishonoring its promise.

However, other than as the above, what you describe would be legal.


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