What happens if you are fired before your start date?

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What happens if you are fired before your start date?

My girlfriend had a job offer which she took. She filled out a W-4 and other paperwork. However, before she could even start she was let go for no subsequent reason. Is there anything we can do since now she’s out of a job and she had a job she quit for this one? Can she file for unemployment against the new job even though she hasn’t technically worked there? Or is there some other course she can take?

Asked on November 8, 2010 under Employment Labor Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

IF the proposed new job knew that she had a job and was quitting it specifically to take the new opportunity, she *may* be able to sue them for damages under a theory called "promissory estoppel." The idea is that in reliance upon their promise of employment, she materially (or significantly) changed her position to her detriment. Again, they have to know of the other job and basically induced her to quit it to come aboard for the new one. Or if she had a written offer letter (best case) and it's fairly absolute in its terms, she may be able to sue to enforce it. In either case, she may be able to get a few weeks or months of pay.

In terms of unemployment, she may be a in bad situation, having voluntarily left job A and not yet working at job B. However, if she deems it worthwhile, based on her situation, to consult with an employment attorney about whether she could bring a legal action under either theory above, it'd be worthwhile asking the attorney about UI, too. Her potentially eligibility will likely turn on issues of exact timing, whether there was a firm offer (and if so, can it be proven), etc. Worst case, she could try applying--as long as you are not committing fraud, there is no penalty typically to applying for UI when in doubt.


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