“If a job offer was withdrawn, do I have a claim to be compensated?”

Question: Vice President – Marketing position. I received an offer signed by the CEO. I applied via email accepting the position, and asking whether they would consider a higher base salary, cover moving expense, etc.

They called and then emailed stating, “We are not filling the position.”

Do I have any chance for compensation as a result of their actions?

         Glencoe, Maryland

Answer: Dear C.R.: The answer is “Legally speaking, no,” with a few, narrow exceptions.

a. As a general rule, if an offer has not been accepted totally, it can be treated as rejected. The law in all states I know of says quite clearly, “if a contract’s terms have not been entirely accepted,” then it can be treated as totally rejected. Your asking whether a higher salary and moving expense reimbursement was possible, would probably be interpreted as a “counter-offer,” which is the same in the law as a rejection.

b. Even if an offer is accepted, it is not binding until “acted on.” As a matter of general “contract law,” even after an offer is accepted, if neither of the two parties has begun to perform their respective obligations, either one can “back out” of the deal. In contract theory, such a contract – one that is not yet even partially performed – is called an “executor” contract, and can be disavowed without consequence. Thus, your not beginning to do the work as VP-Marketing makes your contract (if you had one) cancellable by the employer.
c. If you relied on the contract, and incurred expenses, in moving, for example, you could request reimbursement. If, depending on the job, you incurred moving expenses, for example, you might make a request for reimbursement, but that too would not be legally enforceable in most states. The reason for that is, unless an employee has a written employment contract for a certain amount of time, say two years, then he or she could be fired after one minute of employment, and he or she would be in the same position. Said differently, if the employee could have been let go one minute after starting the job, he or she could be let go two weeks before starting the job, with the same effect: no claim recognizable in law. Still, if you did incur substantial expense, I suggest asking for reimbursement.

Job offer accepted, then withdrawn, leaving you in a bind? Consider our Model Letter entitled “Job Offer Accepted, Then Withdrawn – Requesting Payment of Losses.” Shows you “What to Say, and How to Say It.”™ To obtain your copy, [click here.] Delivered by Email – Instantly!

Sorry for the bad news. However, it is the truth. Thanks for writing in, and I wish you luck finding your next job.

          Best, Al Sklover   

© 2011 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.