Can I sue for compensation regarding a bait and switch job offer?

UPDATED: Mar 3, 2012

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Can I sue for compensation regarding a bait and switch job offer?

I was hired into a company under one set of terms for compensation: 1 year of my services for “X” shares of the company and $”X” per month. A few months into working, we finally get around to signing official contracts for the deal and they changed to terms to a 5-year vesting for roughly 15% fewer and 40% less pay. They threatened to fire me multiple times if I didn’t accept the new terms. I couldn’t afford to lose my job at that point so I signed the new deal. Later, I told them I wasn’t going to stay on past the 1-year mark and they fired me. Is this bait-and-switch?

Asked on March 3, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Utah


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

You should speak with an employment attorney; depending on the exact circumstances, you may have a legal claim under one or both of the following theories:

1) Breach of contract--even if there was no written agreement at the time you were hired, if there was an oral agreement, that may be enforceable; contracts do not always need to be in writing to be enforced.

2) Promissory estoppel: if you did something to your detriment to take the job--for example, left an existing job; relocated--and the employer knew you'd have to do so, but still promised you certain compensation to get you to come work for them and do that action to your detriment, your "detrimental reliance" on their representations may be enough to make their promise binding and enforceable, even in the absence of any agreement.

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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