Can a job offer be rescinded based on negative information learned about the applicant after the job offer?

Can a job offer be rescinded based on negative information learned about the applicant after the job offer?

Yes, most job offers can be rescinded, even if the applicant has made preparations for the new job such as quitting current employment and even relocating to be near the new employer.  One example of this recently played out on social media after a job applicant disparaged her new job in colorful language on Twitter, resulting in immediate revocation of her offer of employment.  Some exceptions exist based on the type of employment offered, the nature of the information learned, and the location of the job or applicant, but most offers do not provide any guarantees or protections if the offering company decides against following through on employment.

Most jobs are offered on an “at will” basis, meaning that the employment can be terminated by the employer or employee for any reason or no reason.  Thus, unless employment is ended for an unlawful reason (such as discrimination or retaliation), there is no remedy against an employer for an employee to recover for job loss.  By extension, if an at-will job offered to an applicant is later retracted, the applicant generally has no remedy because the job could have been ended immediately after hire without remedy.

There are some circumstances in which revocation of a job offer may entitle an applicant to pursue a legal claim.  For example, if the employment offered was not at-will but was promised for a specific length or “term” of employment, or could only be terminated for “cause,” an employer may be liable if it declines to provide the offered employment.  Similarly, any revocation of a job offer based on a protected characteristic of the employee, such as age, race, gender, national origin, or disability, will entitle the applicant to recover for discrimination.  Finally, in some states an employee may be able to recover for detrimental reliance upon a firm offer of employment, receiving compensation for lost expenses, such as relocation expenses and, in some instances, even promised compensation, because of the withdrawal of the offer.

Due to these significant exceptions to the law surrounding job offers, which may alter the general rule, employers should seek counsel before retracting an employment offer to a selected applicant.

The above is for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

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