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Can Companies Rescind A Job Offer? 21

Alfonso Espitia asks: "Just had a question for the general audience out there. I recently got recruited by a company, went to their job fair and the whole nine yards. After the fair I was sent a job offer, I then accepted filled out all the paper work and sent it back. I was given a start date and everything. About a week and a half or two I got a message on my answering machine saying 'About the offer that was extended to you...it is now rescinded.' Can they do this? All the paper work was filled out. I think I was more in shock that they would leave a message like this a few days before Christmas. Instead of just saying "It's urgent that we get in contact with you, can you call back?" Has anyone else had an experience like this? It's a -really- big company, so I didn't mention their name. Also, what can I do about this? Anything? I haven't tried to contact them yet, my recruiter is on vacation 'til the 2nd." I always thought an offer letter was a clear intent to hire, and that companies can't do this without penalties. Has this happened to anyone else? Is there anything Alfonso can do in this situation?
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Can Companies Rescind A Job Offer?

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    As part of your agreement, you and the company both agreed that the employment was at-will and either party could terminate it at any time for any reason, or no reason at all.

    You must be a mind-reader, numbnuts. Where did you get that info from? It's not in the original poster's write-up!
  • Just for laughs, it seems that many people here feel that, while it's not illegal for a company to rescind a job offer, it might be considered unethical. I wonder about the ethics of an individual accepting a job offer and a few days before they were to start, they change their mind. Are companies held to a higher ethical standard than individuals?

    As an aside, I notice there was no mention of why the job was rescinded.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    in Canada at least, I know of a few places (including my company) that have a "3 month trial". During that trial, you can quit at a moment's notice, and they can fire you at a moment's notice. For any reason. You can quit at a moment's notice for any reason. Generally you would also have a performance/salary review after this period is over (I didn't, because I negotiaged a higher salary than they offered in exchange for skipping the review).

    I see it as a good thing because it gives both parties a little bit of freedom to try to see if there's a good fit.

    Now to your situation - I guess it'd be legal (here, at least), because you'd be in that trial period. Kind of rude, but legal. After that period, however, there's supposed to be two weeks notice if you quit, or if they fire you (unless they want you out NOW, in which case they pay you your two weeks salary and push you out the door).

    If they fire you, they had better have a decent reason, because HRDC (Human Resources Dev Canada), a gov't ministry, likes to follow up both with calls and paperwork any time someone leaves a job. If you're a small business owner, it's a pain in the butt, so you wouldn't want to get into the situation that these folks just did - you'd be interrogated.

    I guess either the job closed up, or it was filled by someone cheaper (perhaps by another HR person?). In the end, would you want to work for a company that operates this way?
  • You also have to realize that if a company is big enough 'the left hand doesn't know what the right is doing' so to speak. The HR dept may have signed you up for a job that was no longer available and didn't know it until it was too late. Or the CIO may have ordered a hiring freeze due to budget constraints and/or sent your job to an overseas contracting firm. It really sucks, but unless there was a contract specifying that you would be employed by them for a specfic amount of time, I don't know what you can do. I suppose you could report them to the EEOC if you found out that their decision to not employ you was based on something illegal.

  • Job seekers back out of "agreements" all the time. But there's a difference between a verbal "Yes I accept your offer." and "Yes, I've signed the offer letter and faxed it back to you." One is legally binding, while the other isn't. <IANAL> It's true that in most states employment is on an 'at-will' basis: you can be fired (or quit) at any time, for any reason, without notice. '2 weeks notice' is done out of courtesy for the employer. You really only have legal recourse if you're being fired for an 'illegal' reason (discrimination, misrepresentation of qualifications, company financial concerns), and even then you have to be able to prove it. </IANAL> However, a little bad press can go a long way, you would be surprised what a well written letter to the company's CEO/HR Director can gain you in situations like this. Companies are having a hard enough time recruiting qualified folks, they sure don't need a story like this floating around amongst potential candidates.
  • IANAL, but if you aren't breaking any confidentiality agreements and are telling the truth, I'd let everybody know the name of the company that did this to you.

    You might not have gotten the job, but they'll get quite a bit of bad news. Plus, maybe this won't happen to the next person.
  • I have worked at several companies in the past year and have become quite use to them pushing around the lowly worker. In short of a union there is really no way the sys admins/hackers of the work force will be able to fight back and gain the rights taken away in the tech industry. Why would you even want to work for a company that treated you like that? It obviously can not be that great of a place to work when the management is willing to make such bad choices of how to treat employees.

    Bingeldac denies any responsibility for the
    spelling and/or grammatical errors above.
  • I agree. Name the bastards, and see if you have any legal recourse.

    Some years ago, I was contracting for a place which gave me the impression I'd have a job until the following March/April (the deadline had slipped), and then got told on Xmas Eve 'aah ... sorry ... we've got to let you go immediately so we'll at least be able to pay the permanents'. I name them to anyone who asks (although I believe they went pear-shaped). Unfortunately I didn't have any legal recourse, but if I had ...

  • If you were officially hired and this counts as a terminiation, due to no fault of yours, you can file for unemployment. At least then you can be taking money from them until you go through the resume/interview/repeat process again. I imagine this is quite the inconvenience as you no doubt rejected any other offers after you accepted this one... Everything depends on the paperwork, though, the wording, the signatures, etc... If it looks like you really were hired, get them for the unemployment. Even if you don't need the cash, you can teach them a lesson.
  • Yes, it can happen. About 13 Years Ago, I interviewed with an IT group at a large Auto Company. I was flown to Detroit from Texas, talked with several team leads, given "pretty good" treatment and every indication that they wanted me. I was close to accepting a reasonable offer from them.

    My last interview was with the Department Head, the Exec who made the decision. He told me that, if it was his choice, I would be given an offer "on the spot". Unfortunately, the Corporation instituted a hiring freeze the day of my interview. He could not hire me! It was frustrating for BOTH of us!

  • This is Alfonso Espitia again. For the people wondering who it was, and how big of a corporation I am/was dealing with it's Nortel Networks. Even if it all get straightened out, and it did turn out to be some dumb mistake on their part, atleast the next person should be wary that something like this can happen to anyone out there applying for a job with Nortel. To the other guy that asked, no, there was nothing in a background check that would come up suspicious. Maybe when I have some time I'll make a "Beware of Nortel's Hiring Practices" webpage and scan in all the documentation and emails that correspond to the situation. Thanks to everyone that has posted and is reading...
  • They had a verbal agreement with me at one salary, then I got the offer letter, and it was $10K below the agreed-upon salary. "Fuck that," I said, and signed with someone else for $15K *more* than CSC offered me.

    Companies can do whatever the hell they want, and it's usually the HR department that decides what you'll make, not the recruiters, as nice as they may seem.

    - A.P.

    * CmdrTaco is an idiot.

  • I had that happen to me. I moved my family halfway across the country at my own expense and when I went to work at the job I thought I had, I found out that they were still reviewing applicants. I took odd jobs and applied to every programming job I could find for a month until the money ran out. We sold 90% of our stuff, hooked a U-Haul trailer to the Hyundai Excel, and then moved in with in-laws halfway across the country (in the opposite direction this time). I got a contract job 3 days after hitting town (and thankfully, I'm still working there 5.5 yrs later). I had been at this job for about a week or two when my wife got a call at home. It was the first company. They had been trying to get a hold of me because I got the job. Gee, that's nice, but it was a few weeks LATE! As my wife likes to say, it was a nice adventure.

    I knew a few guys in college that had accepted job offers from companies only to find out a few weeks before graduation that the position had been eliminated. By that time, if you had multiple offers, you would have already turned them down, so it's back to square one in the job search.

  • I watched that movie again just a few hours ago. A friend of hours and I had commented that you would also have to blow up the off-site backup location too. In my city, there are only a few off-site backup companies, so you could probably knock out the recovery plans for several corporations in one shot.

    So do you raid the dumpsters behind plastic surgeons' offices too? =)

  • First read the fine print in your offer letter. I have had offer letters that said that they could terminate my employment at ANY time. I'm still there. If there is a clause like this then it is possible. However an offer letter IS a contract and a legal binding document. If you have a laywer friend or there is a laywer here, then you'd be best to solicit his services, as well he'd need to (I'd love to) see the contract.

    Personally I think it is in poor taste on the employers part, and if they pull something like this NOW then they are NOT the company you want to work for.

    There could also be the possiblility that they found out something about you. Although they should do all their checking before they extend the offer letter, did you have to take a drug test? Was there any reason that they may do this?

    I'd also look into to see how the company is doing. Is it a start up? Is it public, then how is their stock? If so that is the problem right there. If you are new out of college stay away from start up's. They are hokey, and unless you know how a work place should run, they can really screw you over, and you wont know it.

    If you cannot think of ANY reason that they might recind an offer, and there is NOT a clause that gives them the right to do this, then talk to a laywer and do release their name here, so that we all can stay away from this company.

    I don't want a lot, I just want it all!
    Flame away, I have a hose!

  • In Australia generally companies give two weeks notice if they want to fire you, and you must do the same. Them, being the holder of the purse string, can also fire you immediately, paying you for that two weeks "in lieu of giving notice" which isn't so bad, giving you time to start looking for work without dealing with a company you know doesn't want you around.
  • They couldn't rescind "the offer"--there was no offer outstanding. You accepted and filled out the paperwork. The company even acknowledged this fact by giving you a start date. You were their employee already. So, the "offer period" was over.

    However, read over any copies you got and see what you agreed to. Can they "fire at will"? If so then you will still have no job. OTOH, maybe they have to give 6 weeks notice for which you theoretically could be paid. It all depends on the contract you signed. However since there WAS a signed and acknowledged contract, they could NOT rescind the offer.
    MailOne [openone.com]
  • by rjh ( 40933 ) <rjh@sixdemonbag.org> on Saturday December 30, 2000 @06:17PM (#1419667)
    As part of your agreement, you and the company both agreed that the employment was at-will and either party could terminate it at any time for any reason, or no reason at all.

    So this company decided to act in accordance with the agreement you struck. Where's the question?

    Can they do this? Certainly. After all, you agreed to let them do it.

    Is it ethical to do this? Certainly. After all, if it wasn't ethical, you shouldn't have agreed to let them do it.

    Where's the question here?
  • by jqh1 ( 212455 ) on Saturday December 30, 2000 @06:43PM (#1419668) Homepage
    As the replies above indicate, someone who makes an offer to form a contract (in this case a contract for employment) can revoke the offer (by saying something like 'I revoke!' or otherwise indicating revocation) before it is accepted. Several rules that aren't worth discussing here come into play to determine whether and when an offer is accepted and a contract is formed.

    It sounds likely, though, that you had accepted a valid offer, forming a contract for employment with the company, and, for this reason, there was no longer any offer for the company to rescind (revoke), despite what the person who left you the message may have thought. If you really want to answer the question of whether a contract was formed, you need to carefully examine all the documents you signed to see whether there was still some decision that needed to be made by the company before you were actually hired. If there was, and no contract was formed, you're doomed.

    If a contract was formed then, as yucky as it sounds, what happened legally is that you got terminated. As the other replies have indicated, the default rule in most states (assuming you're in the USA) is employment at will, which means you probably have no recourse unless your employment contract indicates otherwise -- such as providing for a 6 month term of employment or something like that. Of course, the state/country/jurisdiction you're in may provide additional protection for you, if it wasn't properly countered in the contract.

    Ultimately, of course, if you really want to examine your alternatives this is question for your lawyer. Or - try a smaller company - I've always had better luck with them.

  • by platos_beard ( 213740 ) on Sunday December 31, 2000 @05:11AM (#1419669)
    Job seekers back out of "agreements" all the time. Seems to me that its just fair for companies to be able to do the same thing.

  • by kevin42 ( 161303 ) on Saturday December 30, 2000 @03:54PM (#1419670) Homepage
    In most places in the US work is considered "at will", so unless you can show real financial harm (ie. you relocated at your own expense with the promise they would reimburse you) you probably are out of luck.

    "At will" employment means they can let you go whenever they want with no advance notice or reason anyway...on the other hand you can quit with no notice also. In other countries you have to give 30-90 days notice if you want to quit or fire someone.

    But this is the good old USA, so even though IANAL I don't think you have any recourse.

System checkpoint complete.