You’ve applied for a job. And now you just interviewed for the job. You’ve given your employer notice that you will be quitting your job in two weeks. But, unexpectedly, your new employer decides to rescind your job offer.
Of course, you’re probably upset. These things shouldn’t happen. But you should also know that you have options if it does. If your new employer decides to withdraw a job offer, knowing how to respond and what recourse you have can make a tremendous difference in your job outlook going forward.
Preventing your Job Offer from Being Rescinded
There are some easy ways that you can circumvent the consequences of having your job offer rescinded. Most of them are obvious.
Many times you’ll find a job offer rescinded after the background check. Or the job offer is rescinded after a credit check.
Basically, employers rescind job offers because you failed some contingency. That is, that your employer had some legitimate reason to pull the job because you failed some step in the process.
To avoid this, you should make sure you get the lay of the land with your new employer before accepting the offer. After you receive your offer, ask your future employer to give you all the contingencies you need to pass in order to have your offer accepted.
And you should also ask how long it will take to pass those contingencies. Make sure you do not give notice until you pass those contingencies.
Your future employer might put pressure on you to accept the job on the spot. Accepting a job on the spot is usually unwise.. They may say that they need you to start on a certain date. And you may feel the pressure to give notice early.
But remember, they offered you a job for a reason. You are a good candidate. It’s more likely that they will wait a few weeks then start from scratch in their candidate search.
If you feel pressured to give notice and start while your contingencies are pending, that’s understandable. Just know that the decision to leave early comes with the risk that you will fail some contingency. And if you do that, you may not have a job at all.
When Can your Written Job Offer be Rescinded?
Unfortunately, there are many reasons why your employer may rescind a job offer. You may have failed a drug test. Or you may have an unflattering criminal history. Maybe the references that you provided tanked you. These things happen all the time. Here are a few more:
You negotiated too hard.
The time to negotiate was before you signed on the dotted line. Your bargaining power is highest when you still have a job. After you sign the offer, you’ve essentially told the new company that you agree to the terms provided.
Make sure to negotiate before signing the offer. Or, if you really want the offer, be okay with losing the offer if you negotiate after receiving it. Whatever you do, do not give notice before fully exploring the offer and negotiating it to your satisfaction.
You did not handle the offer correctly.
This means that you did something to upset the employer after you signed your offer letter. Perhaps you asked to work from home four days a week. Or even worse, you told them that you could only work from home four days a week and this position requires an in-office presence.
Either way, making additional requests after receiving your offer is generally not a good idea. Making unreasonable requests is not something that you should do. If possible, try to iron out the details before accepting the offer.
You did not pass conflicts.
Perhaps you’re in an industry where your previous work prevents you from joining another company. Your offer may be rescinded because your previous work created a conflict of interest. This happens all the time in the legal field. If you are in a similar industry where conflicts of interest are a concern, make sure that you wait until you pass a conflicts check before giving notice.
They found someone better.
Hey, sometimes this happens. It’s incredibly rare. And it shouldn’t happen. But it is possible that the company decided that they liked another candidate better. And then they decided to give the offer to them and rescind yours.
This would likely open them up to legal action. If that happens, we’re here to help.
The economy is weak.
In recent memory, this has happened at mass scale during the Great Recession and the Covid-19 pandemic. There’s not much you can do about a sudden unexpectedly weak economy.
You failed to pass Your background check
Your company can also decide to rescind your offer if you fail your background check. It doesn’t usually happen for simple arrests. But it certainly can help for any criminal entanglements whatsoever.
You’re a mother.
Wait, really? Yes, that seriously happened. This one’s probably not a legal reason to rescind. It would likely fall under discrimination based on sex.
If something like this happened during your application process, you should call a discrimination lawyer.
How do You Respond to a Rescinded Job Offer
Your first step should be to try and make things right with your current employer. This may be hard. If you have not given notice, then you can simply keep working at your current job.
If you have given notice — which is a heads up that you’re quitting — then your employer may not be receptive to your continued employment.
Remember, at-will employment is the law. That means that an employer is free to fire you for any non-discriminatory reason.
If you’ve given notice that you intend to take another job, then you will have a hard time arguing that the reason for your firing was discriminatory.
Even though your employer is not likely to let you keep your job. But you should still ask. You never know. Some companies have a hard time filling positions.
Perhaps you have a niche position yourself. And it’s hard to find someone that can do what you can do. Maybe you’re just a flat-out superstar. Or maybe you’re a below-average worker. Either way, you should ask. The worst your employer can say is no.
After your new employer stiffs you on your current job, it’s time to think about what’s next. You should first and foremost try to find another job. You were able to get one new job. Hopefully, you’re able to find another one.
If you’re at a company that has public profiles of its employees, ask your employer for additional time on the website while you look for a job.
This will make it appear like you still work at the company. And it will not cost the company a dime. Your employer may want to keep your goodwill. It’s unlikely that your company will agree, but, again, it never hurts to try.
Recourse Against the Employer that Rescinded the Offer
Now that you’re rightfully mad at your would-be future employer, what’s left to do? Well, unfortunately, you need to find another job. The law almost always requires you to do this.
You have to go out and seek other, similar employment. That’s an employee obligation; to mitigate your damages. If you don’t your deadbeat new employer will likely argue that you haven’t upheld your obligation to mitigate your damages. Thus, you will not be entitled to damages in any lawsuit.
Now, we’re going to get into the weeds a little bit. Normally, offer letters are not considered contracts. That’s an important distinction. A contract forms when two parties exchange promises and there is a valid offer and acceptance. Under the law, job offers usually do not fit this definition.
So, you most likely don’t have a contract. Can the employer really pull the job? You are not totally out of luck. If you are unable to find another job, you may have a claim under a theory of promissory estoppel.
In most states “[t]o recover against a former prospective employer on a theory of promissory estoppel in the job offer rescission context, the spurned employee must prove:
- there was a clear and definite promise of employment by the employer;
- the employer made the promise with the expectation the employee would rely upon it;
- the employee reasonably did rely on the promise; and
- he or she incurred a definite and substantial detriment as a result of such reliance.”
In non-legalese, if you relied on the offer, and the employer pulled it, you may be entitled to damages (money).
Perhaps you relied on the offer moved across the country and sold your house and car for cheap.
Now, you don’t have a job, a house, or a car. And, what’s worse, you did not sell the house and car for full value because you were in a hurry to move. Sprinkle in the fact that you spent a ton of money moving, and in this instance, you may have a good claim for promissory estoppel.
In the end, you should be aware:
- job offers are sometimes rescinded;
- you shouldn’t give notice until you pass contingencies;
- after you pass contingencies, you should give your two weeks notice; and
- even after doing that, your future employer may rescind the offer anyway.
If that happens, look for a job. You most likely have a duty to do so. And if you can’t find a job or you incurred great expense in the process, you may be able to sue for damages.