old employer torpedoing new job offer

A reader writes:

My brother in-law, Ryan, has worked for his now-former company for a couple of years now. He began looking at changing careers and was recently offered a new job. This new job would be as a product representative for a company that is utilized by the same company he had been working for. He accepted his new offer and was very excited to start. However, the new job required that he start immediately, so he was unable to give notice to the former and he had to leave abruptly, not by his choice, but because he wanted the new job and it seemed a necessary evil.

His immediate supervisor wished him luck and understood the situation. The district manager, however, after hearing Ryan was leaving, took it upon himself to call Ryan’s new employer to tell them he would not be welcome in the stores as a product rep, simply because he was upset that no notice was given. This was not a reference check, nor did the new company instigate contact. It was simply the district manager’s attempt to submarine Ryan’s new career. Upon hearing this, the job offer is in danger of being rescinded, post-acceptance, because “if he is not welcome in-store, he is of no use.” Now, Ryan cannot go back and may effectively be unemployed because his former district manager decided to keep him from succeeding at his new job.

My question is whether this is legal or not, and what options he may have going forward as he will also have to explain this situation to every prospective employer should he not get this job, and his professional reputation may be tainted. Can you help?

Ugh, what a horrible situation. Yes, it’s probably legal. Really jerky though.

If I were Ryan, I’d appeal to the immediate supervisor and ask him to intervene. Ryan should ask him to plead his case to the district manager and see if the damage can be undone. He should also speak with the new employer, explain that he gave no notice at their request, and ask them to work with him on finding a way to fix the situation.

I know it’s of no help now, but always, always give notice. A company that refuses to understand that you need to give notice to your current employer is a company that is likely to be unreasonable in other ways too (as we’re seeing now).

Update: A reader wrote to suggest that Ryan might have a legal case under tortious interference, which is a legal violation related to intentionally damaging someone’s business relationships. My own reading (and I am not a lawyer) was that it doesn’t apply here, because the old employer is within his rights to say that they won’t deal with Ryan as a product rep because of the way his employment ended (again, a jerk, but within his rights). But I’m not a lawyer and if he’s seriously interested in potential legal action, he should talk to one who specializes in employment law.

{ 8 comments… read them below }

  1. Chris*

    Thank you very much for the prompt response to my question. Here’s the funny thing… The new job put him in the position to give no notice because they already had a training seminar planned. While I am usually skeptical about jobs asking for immediate start dates, I understand how logistics can get in the way, especially when you have a holiday weekend smack in the middle of the process. It may be a moot point, as he was still hired, but I hope this situation can help other people that may be in the same situation. He did tell me that the new hiring manager said “Had I known it would blow up like this, we would have postponed the training.” So for anyone else in this position, please do not be afraid to request the courtesy of a two week notice, you never know what a vindictive boss may do. Thanks again :)

  2. HR Wench*

    Training class or no, it is not professional to quit without notice. Give at least 2 weeks notice (absent an unsafe environment / health issue). Otherwise, you burn bridges (as Ryan found out the hard way).

    I would be suspicious of a potential employer that wants / encourages their candidate to quit without notice. They are telling you to be unprofessional. How do you think they will treat you once the honeymoon is over? Better yet, how much notice do they think you will give THEM when the time comes?

    While I don’t blame the district manager for being angry, he went too far and burned his own bridges by making that phone call.

    People! Stop burning bridges already!

    If I were Ryan I would (in this order):
    1. Cry
    2. Call my mom
    3. Go to the district manager and apologize for acting in an unprofessional manner (take responsibility for your actions, don’t give excuses), tell him what I learned from this situation and ask if there was any way the situation could be resolved peacefully between all three parties.

  3. The Engineer*

    Always give notice. Those bridges to the past are always important (vital in this case).
    I love my current job, but while I was OK with my new boss canceling my planned vacation only weeks away after hire, the four weeks notice I planned on giving my former supervisor was not negotiable.

  4. TauroMan*

    I had an experience similar to that. I gave my employer four days resignation letter, but the administration was not happy about it. They communicated by e-mail and telephoned my future employer and influence their decision to reverse their decision to hire me.

    I understand the reason and concept why i should give my present employer two weeks notice, but i am not require by law to do that. I live in at will state.

    Hmm, lets think about it, the employer can fire an employee at any time without reason or cause. Think about it. You might have ethical or moral obligation of your job duties, which contradict your boss or supervisor view. He or she can just let you go without just cause.

    Does an employer give you two weeks notice when they fire you or lay you off? Where is the professionalism there? Do they care of your economical situation or medical situation, if you have co-sponsor medical benefits?

  5. Anonymous*

    What about when you do give the 2 week notice…that they ask for when being hired….and then when you give it…. your asked to go ahead and leave…. without pay…

    the labor department needs to do something about this….so you go for a 2 week unplanned, unpaid vacation….

    it sucks!

  6. Jackie*

    I left a job of 2 years abruptly due to certain circumstances there at work. I began a new job never degrading the former employer I liked only 9 days of being there 90 days no write ups,no tardies, no warning was asked to clock out and leave middle of the shift my services was no longer needed. Come to find out my old employer found out where I was working and called them lied completely on me. Here’s the issue my older employer had a fascination with me and since I would not except his advances I left. Now he is sabotaging me in the worst kind of way. Now I am jobless thanks to this issue. Please help. Any suggestions. If it’s negative keep your opinion to yourself. If it is constructive criticism that’s fine.

  7. James Taylor*

    As a person who works “at will”, I will have to say: “Screw notices”. Companies, rarely if ever give prior notice; after working for dozens of companies, throughout my carrier, I have not once received a notice, other than: “hey, today is your last day.”. So why is it that when companies do it its completely fine, but if I do it its “unprofessional”? Take it from me, if you are currently employed, keep your resume “out there” and if a better offer shows its face, take a sick day, or simply skip work and go interviews. Once you get the job and you get a start date; work until the last day and then go to your new job. Once you get a call from old employer asking what is up, tell them “Got a better offer, see ya.” and be happy with the new benefits of the new job. Honestly, if you were thinking about leaving, its because you weren’t happy, or at the very least something was making you unhappy. Why would you want to go back to that job when you got a new chance somewhere else?

    Remember, you got the new job offer, your employer didn’t have anything to do with it. You owe them nothing man. :)

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