What are an employee’s rights if they relocate but their employer fails to deliver what was promised?

My wife took a job and relocated, leaving behind a job and medical benefits. The new job has fallen to pieces – lack of money and mismanagement. They are 2 months behind in her paychecks, $8k and counting (2 months wages). The office they opened for her (with out office necessities and furniture) is now evicting her. They haven’t yet paid the moving expenses either. Can we recoup additional damages for to the Cobra payments (due to leaving a job with benefits), difference in the housing (we pay more now), and stress, etc ?

Asked on December 2, 2010 under Employment Labor Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

You should speak with an employment attorney to evaluate your case and what it might be worth in detail, but yoiu *may* have a claim. Assuming there is no employment contract, including one in an offer letter--if there is, you need to look to it, to see what was agreed upon and what your rights are--you might be able to proceed under the theory of "promissory estoppel." That means that when someone promises you something with the intention that you will incur some cost or do something else to your detriment to take advantage of that promise and knows (or should know) that you in fact do so--that you suffer some detriment in reliance on their promise--the courts sometimes enforce that promise. Where someone leaves an existing job with benefits and relocates for a job, and the new employer knew she'd have to do so, that may be enough to state a claim under promissory estoppel. If it is, some combination of lost benefits, moving/relocation expenses, and/or lost salary is reasonable to seek as compensation.

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Sounds like there was an employment contract made here, correct? And it sounds like they have breached the contract. Do you have a written contract listing the terms of the move and of the employment?  I would take the contract to an employment attorney and speak with him or her about what you can collect as damages here and what costs you can not recoup.  But I must say from what you have written that it does no t sound like this is a sound company and I am getting the feeling that they may either be insolvent or will be filing for bankruptcy very, very soon.  Good luck to you.


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