YANM Employment Lawyer, 3 parter
May 13, 2016 7:26 AM   Subscribe

So, I got royally screwed over. State: California. After a tenuous start with a new employer, it was clear my boss wasn't going to work with me to ensure my success on the team, so I started looking around. Found a new job, great fit, great company. Applied, interviewed, and was given an offer. Signed the offer, resigned (verbally) from the current job.

A few hours later the new employer emails to say that it's come to light that I did some contracting work with them that I didn't mention in the interviews (stupid, I know) and that they didn't ask about. 24 hours later they called to say they were rescinding the offer. Current employer is not budging on me staying here and is demanding my written resignation.

I'm yelping around for employment lawyers that would represent me in a damages case against the employer that yanked the offer, if I even have a case. So first question is really about whether I have any grounds or not.

Secondly, I've never been unemployed before so I'm not sure what the plus/minus is to acquiescing and submitting the written resignation with the current employer. It seems if they want me to so badly it is better for them than it is for me. Are there implications to my ability to claim unemployment, or my ability to take legal action against an employer that wouldn't give me a fair chance to succeed in the role per normal HR policy (performance improvement plan, etc.)? Should I fight them on it and make them fire me, or just call it in and move on?

Thirdly - employment lawyer recommendations in San Francisco?


Thanks for your help.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What law do you think is being broken here? It's a little unclear from your story above, but it sounds like the contracting work you failed to mention was pretty important/relevant given that you say it was "stupid" not to mention it instead of something along the lines of "I didn't even think to mention it since it's in another industry and not even related to this job!" If it really was important/relevant to the extent of misrepresenting yourself to the employer/lying by omission, which they seem to think it was, then I'm not sure what the legal basis would be to claim they cannot rescind the offer.
posted by rainbowbrite at 7:44 AM on May 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

There's no case, sorry. Just try to find a new job quickly. I would try to claim unemployment from the old employer if you need it, even though I don't know if you will get it given the situation. Basically, it never hurts to try.
posted by michaelh at 7:57 AM on May 13, 2016

You quit a job that wasn't working out and the other company you were going to work for bailed. It's a sad situation, but nobody has done anything illegal.
posted by xingcat at 8:05 AM on May 13, 2016 [4 favorites]

California is an "at will" state, which means you can be fired for almost any reason. So while this is a tough situation and I am sorry you are dealing with it, you do not have a legal case against either employer. This is from the governor's office of business and economic development website:

"At-Will Employment and Wrongful Termination

California’s Labor Code specifies that an employment relationship with no specified duration is presumed to be employment “at-will.” This means, at least in theory, that the employer or employee may terminate the employment relationship at any time, with or without cause. There are exceptions to the at-will rule created by statute, the courts or public policy.

Statutory exceptions include terminating an employee for reasons based on the discrimination laws discussed above; for participating in union activity; for refusing to carry out an activity that violates the law."
posted by FencingGal at 8:28 AM on May 13, 2016

In many states, your ability to collect unemployment insurance may depend on whether you were fired from or quit your current job. Without a written resignation, the matter at least becomes more murky. I would guess that is why they want it. If they're going to make you leave against your will anyway, I see no upside to giving them the resignation letter unless they give you something valuable in exchange for it.
posted by praemunire at 8:37 AM on May 13, 2016 [12 favorites]

I would not sign the letter or resignation. It may, may affect your ability to collect unemployment. As others above have noted, there does not seem to be a case here for anything but you telling the truth in the future. It sounds to me like the folks you did the contract work for at the company that was going to hire you did not have great things to say about you. If you were me, I would try to think about that contract work and what went well and what went poorly and if you got along personally with those folks. An analysis of the situation may help you in the future.
posted by AugustWest at 8:38 AM on May 13, 2016 [1 favorite]

There is literally no reason for you to sign something, unless they are offering to give you something in exchange. Signing a resignation will not improve your position in any way and it may hurt it, so there is no reason to do it.

If you "accepted" the offer before employer #2 rescinded it, such as by telling them that you accept (not clear from your question whether you communicated an acceptance or just signed something without communicating it), then I don't think your legal position is as futile as is suggested in some of the above comments. Not saying you have a good case, but it's worth talking to a lawyer about.
posted by Mid at 8:55 AM on May 13, 2016 [2 favorites]

I would very strongly recommend you talk to a lawyer, regarding 1) whether you relied upon the new employer's promise of employment and then detrimentally relied on it, 2) whether you should sign ANYTHING from existing employer, and 3) whether you need to make new employer aware that you relied upon their offer and took the action you did. All three of these things require that you get advice from a lawyer first. Call the California State Bar and ask for their lawyer referral service, or start with the yellow pages. My advice is not legal advice and I don't practice employment law nor am I licensed in California.
posted by Happydaz at 9:46 AM on May 13, 2016 [4 favorites]

It sounds to me like the folks you did the contract work for at the company that was going to hire you did not have great things to say about you.

Another reason why the contract work might have snafu'd your hiring is it's fairly common for companies sign an agreement with staffing agencies that should a contractor be directly hired into the company within a specified time range (1 year since last consulted with company is common), the company pays a fee to offset the loss of the contractor's income to the agency, for example, equivalent to 6-12 months of your salary.

If you feel this situation might apply to you, dig up the agreement you signed with the staffing agency or contact the staffing agency and ask. Doesn't hurt to try to negotiate the terms with the staffing agency as you haven't worked for them lately and a smaller hired- away fee is better then getting no hired away fee at all. You should also list out any other companies the staffing agency placed you with as you'll run into the same issue when you directly apply to them too.
posted by jamaro at 11:02 AM on May 13, 2016 [4 favorites]

[This is a followup from the asker.]
Thanks for your answers so far. To clarify, with the prospective new employer, I signed all of the offer letter paperwork and returned it to them, then emailed them to let them know that I had done so, and ask if they required anything further, which they did not. Later that same day, they contacted me to say the contracting work had come to light. The next day they called to rescind the offer, and then yesterday I then received an automated note that started out by thanking me for accepting the offer and explaining next steps for my start date.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:04 AM on June 2, 2016

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