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Given the hours that I dedicated to the hiring process, can I sue an employer for mysteriously withdrawing a job offer from me?

Boston, MA |

A few weeks ago, I was --via phone --offered a position at a for-profit college to work as an admissions counselor. However, several days later, after I had attempted to reach the hiring manager who offered me the job, I learnt that he no longer worked for the company in question and was not given any explanation as to why he suddenly left or was terminated. After learning about this change in circumstances, I contacted the hiring manager's replacement and asked him for an update on my case. Upon receiving my email, he asked for my phone number and simply said that he'd call me asap. However, since then, I've not heard from him. Although I wrote him another email, he has failed to respond. Can I sue? Has he violated any laws? If so, I would be happy to have a competent lawyer's help.

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Lawsuits are all ultimately based on a theory that someone has breached a duty owed to the claimant and thereby caused loss or damage. You contend that your time spent in the hiring process constitutes loss of valuable time to you, and maybe so. But, absent an agreement to compensate you for your time and effort, the prospective employer was not under any legal obligation or duty to pay you for your time/effort investment.

Your factual summary strongly suggests that you were somewhere in the hiring process when the person who had exercised the judgment to hire you got terminated or quit. Unless you signed an employment agreement, you appear not to have been hired by the time that it all fell apart. That would leave you with no meaningful legal remedy. But even if you were hired by that point in time, unless there is an employment contract providing otherwise, the employer could terminate you at any time for any reason not prohibited by law (and your summary of facts raises no issues of any legally prohibited reasons).

There is nothing set forth in your factual summary that would support a claim by you for compensation by the prospective employer. But, give the employer some time to sort through the events and perhaps the employment offer will still be available to you.

My responses to questions on Avvo are never intended as legal advice and must not be relied upon as legal advice. I give legal advice only in the course of an attorney-client relationship. Exchange of information through Avvo's Questions forum does not establish an attorney-client relationship with me. That relationship is established only by individual consultation and execution of a written agreement for legal services.


I am a California attorney and cannot give legal advice in your state. My comments are information only, based on federal law and general legal principles. YOUR STATE MAY HAVE ITS OWN LAWS THAT OFFER SIMILAR OR GREATER PROTECTION. If I mention your state’s laws, it only means I did a quick Internet search and found something that looked relevant. You MUST check with an attorney licensed in your state to learn your rights.

Nothing you described sounds even remotely unlawful. The harsh reality is employees and job applicants have very few employment rights, and employers have a lot of leeway in how they choose to run their businesses. In general, an employer can be unfair, obnoxious or bad at management. And an employer can make decisions based on faulty or inaccurate information. An employer has no obligation to warn an employee that he or she is not performing as the employer wants. It’s not a level playing field. An employer hires employees to provide work for its benefit, not for the benefit of the employees. Don't expect the employer to take care of its employees; it doesn’t have to and it rarely does.

There are some limitations on what an employer can do, mostly in the areas of public policy (such as discrimination law or whistle blowing), contract law, union-employer labor relations, and constitutional due process for government employees. Please see my guide to at-will employment which should help you understand employment rights: After you take a look at the guide, you may be able to identify actions or behavior that fits one of the categories that allows for legal action. If so, an experienced plaintiffs employment attorney may be helpful.

Employment rights come from the state and federal legislatures. One of the best things working people can do to improve their employment rights is to vote for candidates who have a good record on pro-employee, anti-corporate legislation. Another way to protect employment rights is to form or affiliate with a union, or participate in the union already in place.

I hope you can resolve your situation and wish you the best.

*** All legal actions have time limits, called statutes of limitation. If you miss the deadline for filing your claim, you will lose the opportunity to pursue your case. Please consult with an experienced employment attorney as soon as possible to better preserve your rights. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer provides information on Avvo as a service to the public, primarily when general information may be of assistance. Avvo is not an appropriate forum for an in-depth response or a detailed analysis. These comments are for information only and should not be considered legal advice. Legal advice must pertain to specific, detailed facts. No attorney-client relationship is created based on this information exchange. *** Marilynn Mika Spencer is licensed to practice law before all state and federal courts in California, and can appear before administrative agencies throughout the country. She is eligible to represent clients in other states on a pro hac vice basis. ***


They were not your employer; you had no contract with them and therefore no contractual rights.

You were still engaged in the 'employment dance' when the music stopped. Happens every day as a regular part of the job search process.

No grounds to sue in the facts you provided.

Best of luck on the job search.

READ THIS BEFORE CALLING OR EMAILING ME: I am licensed to practice before the state and federal courts in Virginia. We have not established an attorney-client relationship unless we have a signed representation agreement and you have paid me. I do five my 100% effort to get you on the right track with your issue. Sometimes that means legal educational information, sometimes that means counseling and non-legal guidance. You should speak with an attorney to whom you have provided all the facts, before you take steps that may impact your legal rights. I am not obligated to answer subsequent emails or phone calls unless you have hired me. I wish you the best of luck with your situation.

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