I accepted a verbal offer of full-time employment in the morning, only to have it rescinded in the evening. In the interim, I gave notice to my current employer, where I worked three days a week for the past 18 months. After the new job evaporated – the hiring manager said she'd made a mistake, that someone else had already been hired for the role – I called to ask for my old job back. Several days later, I received a letter informing me that my services were no longer required. Is there any recourse against the people who offered the job and then pulled it back?
THE FIRST ANSWER
Principal, Big Cheese Coaching, Toronto
Oh, that's a bad break. And unfortunately, a tough way to learn a crucial lesson: never give notice until you have a written offer. I don't believe you have any recourse, but a legal opinion will provide better input on that. Given the situation, here are a few thoughts on what you can do to make the best of it:
Leverage the experience you had with the 18-month job and update your resume with new skills and/or accomplishments gained. If you had a good working relationship with your employer, speak authentically. Share that you were hoping for a full-time role and that circumstances changed. While you won't likely get your job back, you can ask if they would be willing to be a reference. Acknowledge you will be looking for a full-time role, but if they can use any additional "hands on deck," that you would be open to freelance as an interim solution.
The outcome to this will greatly depend on the quality of your work, the relationship, and the overall integrity you demonstrated in the duration of your employment as well as in giving notice. Which leads to another equally important lesson: Always do your best, and operate with integrity right to the end. You never know when bridges will need to be crossed again.
THE SECOND ANSWER
Partner, Keel Cottrelle LLP
You may have possible recourse against both the prospective employer and your former employer.
As you had not commenced employment with the prospective employer, your employment-law rights are unclear, but you may have a claim for breach of contract. There was an unconditional offer of employment, which you accepted, resulting in an employment agreement. An employment contract does not need to be in writing in order to be binding, although a verbal offer and acceptance may be subject to disagreement as to what was actually communicated.
Canadian law recognizes the vulnerability of employees in the hiring process and generally imposes a duty of care on employers, who may be liable for careless misrepresentations made to job candidates, resulting in economic loss. In this case, there was a misrepresentation made to you about the availability of a job, that was offered to you, when in fact the job was already filled. You reasonably relied on the offer of employment and resigned from your employment, giving up your income.
You do not have a legal right to require the prospective employer to hire you, but you may have a claim for some portion of your lost income.
In addition, you may have a claim against your former employer for wrongful dismissal. An employer cannot terminate employment by accepting a resignation after an employee has withdrawn it. It appears that your former employer did not accept your resignation until after you had retracted it, by asking for your old job back.
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