Normally, employers and applicants are free to rescind or decline the offer of a job. Once you accept the offer, however, a legal contract is formed, even without a written employment agreement. Employers and job-seekers alike might have claims if acceptances are late rescinded or declined.
At-Will Offers Can Be Rescinded
Except in Montana, all non-union employment is "at-will" unless you and the employer agree otherwise. An employer can rescind an at-will job offer without a reason, and you have no claim for lost salary.
If you can prove that the employer rescinded your job offer for an illegal reason, such as your religious beliefs, you might have a claim for damages. In rare cases, a job-seeker who invested money to take a job offer that was later rescinded, by moving to a new city or quitting a previous job, might be able to claim reimbursement for these costs or losses.
A Written Employment Agreement Can Protect You
Perhaps an employer offered you a position saying you could be fired only for specific reasons. If you signed an employment agreement that specified these reasons, and the employer later tried to rescind the offer for another reason, you might have a claim. If the offer was rescinded before you accepted it, no legal contract was formed, and you probably have no legal claim against the employer.
Sometimes Employers Can Sue for Breach of Contract
If you decline a job offer, and you have no employment contract, the employer has no claim against you. Even if you accept a job and later decline it, the employer has no claim against you if you are an at-will employee, because you are entitled to quit without a reason.
If you sign an employment contract that obligates you to work for the employer for a specific period, declining the offer after signing amounts to breach of contract. The court will not force you to work for the employer, but the employer may win money damages from you.
Damages Are Expected to Be Minimized
Even if you or the employer wins a lawsuit, the amount of damages awarded by a court might be low. This is because people who suffer damages are obligated to take reasonable steps to limit these damages.
If you decline a job offer, and the employer is able to hire an equally qualified person the next day at the same salary, damages will be minimal. A court would not award damages for any unnecessary delay in hiring another employee. The same principle applies to the job-seeker. If an employer rescinds a job offer, and you find equivalent work the next day, your damages will be minimal.
An Employment Lawyer Can Help
The law surrounding rescinded and declined job acceptances is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific