Do I have a case for promissory estoppel against my employer?

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Do I have a case for promissory estoppel against my employer?

I quit my last employer to become hired at Frontpoint Security based on the fact that I was promised twice the company recruiter and the Director of my department that I would be working from home 2-3 days per week after working at the company for at least 3 months. At the 3-month mark, I brought up the topic with my director Nienke. Neinke then told me that the company does not have a work-from-home policy. I persisted that I needed the work-from-home days, especially since I am graduate

student and attending classes concurrently. Nienke agreed that I could work from home one day per week until the school semester ended and that we would readjust my schedule after that. As the date came closer for us to readjust my schedule, I began having conversations about it with Nienke early. She concluded that she had actually never promised me work from home days and that I would not be granted them, since it is not company policy. She denied having ever making the statement that I could work from home. After that conversation took place, I went to my recruiter who had also promised me work from home days. The recruiter Mike had said verbatim, I know we promised you a few days work from home, but after talking to management, that is no longer possible. I now must travel 22 miles 5 days a week to commute back and forth to work, where I originally would have only had to travel 2-3 days per week. I also quit a job that is located within my area to work with this employer. I no longer have the ability to make it to class on time because of my new requirement to be in office 5 days per week. Do I have a case for promissory estoppel?

Asked on May 14, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, District of Columbia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately, you most likely do not have a viable case for promissory estoppel. Employment in this country is "employment at will." That means, among other things, that an employer has 100% control over the terms and conditions of employment, including where you work, and may change them at any time, without notice; as a corollary to that, they are not bound by their promises unless the promise is embodied in an actual written employment contract for a defined or set period of time (e.g. a one-year, etc. contract). Only written contracts create enforceable rights; without a contract, an employee has no say over, no rights to, and no control over his/her job.
For promissory estoppel to be viable, the reliance on the promise must be "reasaonable." However, given employment at will, it is *not* reasonable to rely on any promise at work, such as about where you will work (location), unless the promise was, as stated, embodied in a contract. You cannot reasonably count on anything at work without a contract, and so you cannot make out a viable promissory estoppel case.


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