Can a university take back a verbally agreed to job offer?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Can a university take back a verbally agreed to job offer?

I interviewed for a job at a public university in Illinois, and was verbally offered the job onWednesday, November 22nd. I accepted the offer and they said they would be getting the contract to me the following Monday because of the holiday. On Monday, they called and said they had a hangup from the university getting the contract approved but should be no big deal. That afternoon, I sat down with my current athletic director and told him about the position offered. I tried to contact them on Tuesday with no return. On Wednesday evening, the Athletic Director at the hiring institution called to inform me they have to take the job offer back due to another applicant who was of a different background than me, who had more experience referenced title IX and equal opportunity, they had to offer the position to. I feel this is a discrimination case, as the offer was given and accepted.

Asked on December 4, 2017 under Employment Labor Law, Montana


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

As a general matter, an oral (that, not "verbal," is the correct term) job offer is not binding and can be revoked or reneged upon at any time. That is because under "employment at will" (the law of our nation), all employment is "employment at will" except and to the extent there is a written employment contract for a set or definite period of time which is unexpired and still in effect. Without such a contract, an employer may terminate employment at any time--even before it begins, by reneging on a job offer.
There are some exceptions to an employer's otherwise total discretion over who to hire and employ: employers may not discriminate against an employee or job candidate due to his or her race, color, age over 40, national origin, sex, religion, or disability. If you lost a job because of one of those characteristics, that would be illegal discrimination, and you could contact the federal EEOC to file a complaint. But employers may "discriminate" legally for other reasons: for example, choosing to hire someone with different experience, from a different state, from a different region of the country, etc.

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 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.

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