What can I do regarding a bait-and-switch by my employer?

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What can I do regarding a bait-and-switch by my employer?

I was hired by a public hospital and promised a standard professional level, full-time benefits package. On my 2nd day of work, hospital leadership announced that in 2 weeks my department would be contracted to a 3rd party and I would become an employee of that 3rd party thus subject to their benefits package, which was not as generous. It was well known by human resources and my department that I would be relocating for this job. Is the employers action legal? Can they recruit and hire an employee knowing the employee will never receive the promised benefits package?

Asked on November 28, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Washington

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately, unless you had an actual written employment contract for a defined or set period of time, such as one-year contract, which was still in effect  (not expired and not otherwise legally terminated), you were an "employee at will." (All employees in our nation who do not have written employment contracts are employees at will.) An employee at will has no rights to his/her job: the employer may, at any time, for any reason, and without prior notice, terminate him or her: change the job title or duties, hours or location; change compensation, including benefits; etc. Therefore, since the employer could simply terminate or lay you off if they wanted, they can make this change; your only recourse, under employment at will, would be to seek other employment and quit. (Just as the employer can terminate employment at any time, you can terminate your employment whenever you want and for any reason, including not liking a change in employment; employment at will presumes that both parties work together only so long as they want to, and that whenever either is dissatisfied, that party will end the employer-employee relationship.) Because of employment at will, they can do this.
If you have a written employment contract, you can enforce its terms, including in court (by suing for "breach of contract") if necessary. Whenever possible, in the future, do not relocate for a job without some sort of written, contractual guaranty of employment or at least of wortwhile severance if terminated or laid off.


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