If I was promised a job, got an offer letter, filled and returned all paperwork before the end date but the job never materialized, what are my rights?

UPDATED: Sep 29, 2022

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If I was promised a job, got an offer letter, filled and returned all paperwork before the end date but the job never materialized, what are my rights?

I put in my 2 week notice since I was constantly reassured that it was OK everything would be fine. Come start date, they had no information for me to start working. A week later, they said there’s no more start date. I am now unemployed and having medical issues from not having insulin due to not having a job.

Asked on September 15, 2015 under Employment Labor Law, Texas


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

You may not have any rights--there is a chance discussed below but it is an uphill battle. First, understand that all employment is employment at will that means that an employer can terminated someone at will--or renege on a job offer. That is the norm or the default that employees and prospective employees have no rights in or to jobs.
There is a doctrine called "promissory estoppel." If ALL of the following criteria are met, you can sometimes enforce a promise, like a promise of employment
1 Someone made a promise to you, like a promise of employment, to get you to do something, like coming to work with them
2 They made the promise knowing that to act on it, you would have to do something significant to your detriment, like leaving an existing job
3 It was reasonable for you to rely on their promise--that is, not reasons to doubt it, think better of it, etc. and
4 In reasonable reliance, you did in fact act on that promise and do that thing to your detriment, like quitting your existing job.
When all these criteria are met, you can sometimes hold others accountable for their promises and, for example, force them to hire you or at least get some compensation. But because the norm in this country is "employment at will," trying to enforce the promise goes against the general rule and public policy therefore, while it may be worth trying, you can't assume you will win if you bring an action to enforce the promise. You should consult with an employment law attorney to discuss the case.

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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