Is the following scenario illegal?

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Is the following scenario illegal?

I had an unpleasant experience with the hiring process of College of the Desert. I had applied for an adjunct faculty position within the culinary arts department and was invited to interview for the position. I was living in HI at the time but was moving to the area shortly so Human Resources agreed to a phone interview. Months later, after I already moved, I received a call and email indicating that COD would like to move forward with me and hire me on to help start the jail/prison cooking program; I had taught culinary and supervised inmates at a state prison in HI. I completed the on-boarding process and paid out of pocket for all required expenses such as required fingerprinting at the COD designated areas, transcript request, TB test, mileage to get to all of these locations and turn in my documents to COD. Upon handing in my documents to HR, I was told I would be contacted when I would be needed for substitution until the program started. Again, several months passed, and I contacted the dean of culinary, as well as HR to see if there was an update on when I might start. There was no response from either. I let a week pass and tried to contact them again. To my surprise, I was contacted by a woman in Human Resources who emailed me stating that I am not qualified for the position based on the equivalency board meeting and rendering me under qualified. Immediately, I called her to clarify and she rudely expressed that I was not supposed to be interviewed and that the board should have met prior to the interview process. She indicated that I should not have completed the on-boardng process either. An apology was not made on her behalf for their error but instead she made it seem as if I were to blame. Since my on-boarding process was an error with fault upon COD, I am requesting that my out-of-pocket expenses be refunded. Since I was not even supposed to be considered I feel I was treated unfairly since they were just going to ignore the problem.

Asked on March 17, 2018 under Employment Labor Law, California

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

If you were given an employment contract, then that would be enforceable. You could force them to either give you the job or recover compensation for your financial losses. Since you did not have a contract but you did do something significant to your detriment and in reliance on this company's promise of employment, you could possibly hold them accountable. In order for such a claim to be made you must have done something significant (relocating, leaving an existing job) that caused you a loss. At this point, you should consult directly with an attorney about your options; the legal theory is called "promissory estoppel" ( legally being stopped from denyng a promise), also known as "detrimental reliance" (relying on a representation to your detriment).

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

If you had an actual written employment contract with a set start date and were not hired by that date, you would have a legal claim for "breach of contact" and could seek compensation for not getting the job and/or for the costs you incurred in this process.
But all employment in this country is "employment at will" when there is no written employment contract with a firm, defined start date. Employment at will means that employment is at the "will" of the employer--there is no guaranty of or right to a job, and an employee may be terminated after starting, or a job offer withdraw before starting, at any time, for any reason. Since the employer had the legal right to withdraw the job, you have no legal recourse or claim.


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