Is it legal for a company to hire you and then to tell you that they have decided to hire a friend instead?

UPDATED: May 22, 2012

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Is it legal for a company to hire you and then to tell you that they have decided to hire a friend instead?

I was hired at a small specialty retail shop. I filled out all the new hire paperwork, including a W-4. I was told to call them that same evening to find out what my schedual would be. When I called I spoke to the owner (who hired me) and she informed me that after I had left from doing my paperwork a friend of hers came in and needed a job with a lot of hours, so she decided to hire him instead but that I can call in a month and see if they need any more help then. That was it. Is this leagal? Are there papers I am suppose to fill out with her company since I was hired and then not?

Asked on May 22, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

It is legal in the vast majority of cases, since employment is normally employment-at-will: that is, either the employer or the employee can normally terminate the employment relationship at any time, for any reason, without notice--including before you even actually start the job. The exceptions, or when it would not be legal:

1) You had an actual employment contract guarantying you the job for some set period of time; if so, you may enforce it.

2) In order to take the job, you had to do something significant to your detriment or disadvantage, like relocating or giving up an existing job; the prospective employer knew you would have to do that thing to take the job, but made you the offer anyway; it was reasonable for you to rely on the offer (e.g. there was no reason to think it was not firm) and, in reasonable reliance on it, you did that thing to your detriment. If all these conditions are made, then under the doctrine of "promissory estoppel," the employer may be "estopped"--or prevented--from dishonoring its promise.

However, other than as the above, what you describe would be legal.

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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