If I got a job offer and quit my current job but now the offer start date is TBD, is that legal?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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If I got a job offer and quit my current job but now the offer start date is TBD, is that legal?

I have a question about job offers and the hiring process. I applied for a position, filled out paperwork, got a call back and was told my start date would be last Friday. I was working another job at the time and was informed to let them know I would be leaving basically putting in a 2 weeks notice which I did. Then, last Thursday the day before I was supposed to start the new job, I got a call from the company that said

Asked on September 1, 2016 under Employment Labor Law, Texas


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

As a general matter, employment in this country is "employment at will" which, among other things, means that employers typically have full control over hiring and firing, including start dates, unless and only if here is a written contract which guarantees a position or start date.
There is a legal doctrine called "promissory estoppel" which *may* be able to help you, if you sue your new employer--a drastic move--for the loss caused by the delayed start. To use promissory estoppel, which can hold a non-contractual promise enforceable, you need all the following to occur:
1) Someone made you a promise, like of a new job with a given start date;
2) To act on that promise, you'd have to do something to your detriment, like leaving an existing job; 
3) The person making you the promise knew *at the time they made the promise*--not later--that you'd have to do that thing to your detriment;
4) Even though they knew the above, they still made you the promise; and 
5) It was reasonable for you to rely on the promise--no reason to doubt it.
Even if all 5 elements above are met, it's still far sure that you'd prevail on a promissory estoppel claim in this case, since holding an employer to a non-contractual promise goes directly against employment at will, or the employer's right to decide on when, with whom, etc. to start employment, and courts are generally reluctant to overturn employment at will. However, it still represents your only chance for compensation for not getting the job or the delay in the job.

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 AttorneyPages.com 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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