my job offer was revoked before I started — and after I quit my job

A reader writes:

I was working with a staffing agency and received a job offer through them. I was informed by phone and email that I’d been hired, with start date and start time. So, I verbally confirmed that I accept, would be quitting my current job, and would be able to start on the agreed start date, after my two-weeks notice.

Just a few days before my start date, I was notified that my offer had to be revoked because there were changes in the department. I was supposed to be replacing a woman present at my interview who was getting a promotion. But I was told that the manager of the department she was getting promoted to was new, had “jumped the gun,” and that the process could not move forward. As a result, I am unemployed. Is this legal? Doesn’t a position have to be verified by someone to officially be open? Will this reflect me negatively when I have to explain to new interviewers why I am unemployed?

What an awful situation.

Unfortunately, it’s generally legal unless the employer operated with deliberate fraudulent intent. There’s also something called “detrimental reliance,” where you’d argue that you relied to your detriment on their offer. However, courts haven’t generally sided with those claims, in part because since employment is usually at-will, you could have been fired on your first day without legal recourse. (Courts are starting to look a bit more favorably on these claims recently, particularly in California, but not enough that you could rely on it.)

But regardless of the law, it’s a really, really horrible thing to do to someone. You need to spell out for them exactly the situation they’ve put you in: “I resigned my job on your word that I had a job with you. I’m now unemployed as a result of this, in a terrible job market. What can be done to make this right?” Any employer with even a sliver of a conscience should, at a minimum, pay you severance or a settlement in this situation — not that that will make up for it. If they refuse, I’d say the next step is to have a lawyer try to negotiate on your behalf.

Meanwhile, is there any way to return to your previous job? If not, be straightforward with new employers about what happened; it shouldn’t reflect on you, and any normal person will be horrified and sympathetic.

{ 97 comments… read them below }

  1. ChristineH*

    I definitely agree that this is a rotten situation. However, isn’t it usually best to say, “get the offer in writing”? Yes, the OP got an email with the details of the offer, but I would think a hard-copy letter on company letterhead would be more official. Or is an email offer more the norm these days? (yes, I’m showing how long I’ve been out of work *blush*)

    1. Emily*

      As I understand from my own personal experience, while an email is formal documentation, there’s no legality associated with it – it’s not binding, not until you sign an official contract (i.e. both parties are contractually bound by their signatures on a document).

      That said, I think the OP deserves some kind of payment. The OP should follow Allison’s advice and talk to a lawyer about options if they refuse to help the OP out in any way.

      1. JT*

        Unless the other party is going to claim the email is fake, it’s generally just as strong as paper. The problem with electronic records is they can be faked easily, but there is no suggestion the company is going to claim that. So the paper vs digital aspect is not relevant here.

        1. moe*

          An email printout or screenshot is easy to fake, but if you get an actual IT person to pull the records, that’s quite different and can/will hold up in court. The problem is the cost associated with that kind of investigation–you don’t see big e-discovery efforts for small disputes, typically.

          1. Anonymous*

            At the end of the day it doesn’t really matter in a case like this. Paper or email, the company is still under no legal obligation to hire this person. It is a really crappy situation, but having the letter in hard copy would not have created any additional obligation. I have been on the other side of this and been the employer that had the position fall through it sucks to be on that end as well because you know what a horrible position the new hire is in.

    2. Ariancita*

      But even if it’s in writing, it would still be at-will, no? So they could still revoke the offer and OP would still be left in this situation. How would having it in writing be helpful in this kind of case?

      1. mh_76*

        Depends on the state/country but where I am…yup, it is at-will. And can be yanked even if it is on letterhead & hand-signed.

      2. Dave*

        This is the point. The offer WAS in writing via e-mail, regardless the counterfeit-ability of email vs. notarized, registered mail, writing. The offer was rescinded prior to start, a de facto layoff.

    3. KayDay*

      My offers have always been been phone calls confirmed by a letter sent as an email attachments (i.e. word documents or PDFs on the company’s electronic letterhead) stating the salary, start date, etc… I’ve never received a hard copy letter.

      In this case, it sounds like this was their “official” offer, and there really isn’t anything the OP could have done differently. Hopefully the OP resigned from the current company on a good note, but no matter what this is a truly awful situation. I would hope that the OP could work something out where the OP could receive unemployment if their former employer won’t take them back, but I’m not sure if that is possible.

      1. Anonymous*

        In the UK, a verbal offer and acceptance constitutes a contract- I’d always advise not giving in notice before having the written contract ( which the employer is legally obliged to provide in a basic form), but if an offer is pulled the most somone could expect (unless there were evidence of discrimination etc) would be contractual notice, usually a week. Is there a requirement for written documentation in the US?

        1. Mike C.*

          No. We don’t have anything close to decent labor protections that the rest of the developed world enjoys.

          For instance, because the OP left her former job willingly, there’s a good chance that s/he will not be eligible for unemployment benefits. Furthermore, the new employer could make his/her case for unemployment more difficult.

    4. mh_76*

      OP – I would avoid that recruiter and that company (there are multiple recruiters in the staffing company and all are different so no need to avoid that). A good staffing co./recruiter will send you the details in email format and will have you sign and return paperwork (or email that you understand it) before starting any position. The paperwork -usually- consists of the details emailed already, often various non-disclosure and other agreements, sometimes background check authorization, and (in my state) health insurance coverage verification sometimes with an option to buy the staffing agency’s plan (I don’t remember off-hand what the minimum assignment duration is or if there is one). Some agencies will let you email those authorizations (vs. signing on the dotted line) and some want them signed & returned.

      ChristineH – I’ve worked for a handful of staffing agencies (as a contractor) and have yet to see an offer on letterhead (vs. email). I have had a “perm” job in the past couple of years (ended after a short time…very glad that it did) and did get a letterhead offer for that job and the “perm” jobs that came before (those were years ago).

      1. Long Time Admin*

        As MH_76 said, agencies usually do not send an offer on letterhead, and as far as I know, companies who recruit through agencies don’t either. The email is the accepted job offer, but it’s no more binding than any other “agreement” from an employer.

        I’ve heard of this happening before, and it really stinks that there is NO recourse for the person who is now jobless. OP, don’t be embarassed about this in future interviews, and try to let go of your anger before you have an interview. I think most people know that this happens, and won’t think badly of you.

      2. KDD*

        I’ve worked for a staffing company for 10 years now. All offers are forwarded to our candidates via the employer i.e. on their letterhead in either electronic or hard copy. Both parties must sign the offer letter. Even so, that doesn’t mean that bad situations like this can’t and won’t happen.

        If it was me, I would have a conversation with the recruiter and explain that you are now unemployed. Any recruiter with a conscience will at least try to find you something else ASAP.

  2. Yuu*

    For most places, email is considered written notice. The only thing that wasn’t in writing was the OP’s acceptance of the offer, but I don’t think that is an issue.

    I don’t have any constructive advice to help you out, OP, but if they are that disorganized maybe you dodged a bullet in joining that company.

  3. K.*

    Oh, dude, I’m so sorry! I think in your situation I would cry, call some friends and bitch and cry some more, and then suck it up and call my old job to see if they’d hired my replacement yet. If that doesn’t work out, I totally agree that you should just be up front about what happened in future interviews – this is not your fault!

    Re: what constitutes “in writing,” for the most part, I’ve gotten an offer over the phone and then, once accepted, they sent me a letter. I wasn’t required to do anything with the letter like sign and send them a copy or anything; in one case they sent me a whole packet of stuff, including offer letter, via registered mail so I had to sign for it. With my last job, I got an offer over the phone and then got an email, which I then printed out and kept. I think an email is just as “official” as a letter – the idea is that it’s documented in some way. AAM, please correct me if I’m wrong!

  4. Ross*

    I don’t think an e-mail offer is the norm, but if my recent experience is any indication, it’s certainly becoming more common. I just got offered a job (yay!), and I had to ask specifically if the employer planned to produce an offer letter. Even though the interview process had been very formal, they said they didn’t typically do that but would be happy to provide me with an e-mail detailing salary and start date. It threw me off a little, but the formal e-mail from the recruiter, coupled with a kind “welcome” e-mail from my soon-to-be boss, is enough for me.

    In terms of whether or not letterhead makes anything more official, I doubt that it does. In my current office, everyone has access to letterhead, including people who have no hiring authority. Sending an e-mail from a company address is still a representation of the company’s position, in my opinion (which is why it’s a bad idea to use work e-mail for personal commitments, but that’s a whole other topic).

    All that said, a written offer is really just a professional courtesy. Particularly if you’re in a state with at-will employment laws, employers can change their minds about you whenever they want – apparently, even before you’ve started. Sounds like the main consequence for the employer in this situation is damage the reputation of the company, the interviewers, and the hiring manager. Sure would be nice if they’d offer up severance for OP, as AAM suggested.

    1. ChristineH*

      First of all, congrats on the new job!!

      Second, thanks everyone for the clarifications. Sounds like it depends on the employer. I’ve always thought a hard-copy offer letter was standard protocol. Even with the contract job I had two years ago, I was handed a letter.

      I don’t question Alison’s advice though. While it’s not illegal, it definitely shows disorganization on the employer’s part, a pretty good red flag had the OP begun working there.

      1. Anonymous*

        While it does sound like disorganization here, that’s not always the case. Sometimes things change in an unforeseeable way. Things like loss of funding/contract and company reorgs are usually beyond the control of the hiring team.

    2. mh_76*

      an email offer is the norm for jobs throug staffing agencies. OP, did you mean working as a perm. employee at the staffing company ( or at a 3rd party employer with the staffing company as middle-man ( hope this makes sense…

  5. moe*

    That really sucks. Agree with Alison that it *may* not be kosher legally, but you’re unlikely to get much of anything out of it. I like her advice about how to move forward (especially as the agency may have additional work for you).

    My one question here (which may explain the lack of formality in the offer/acceptance process)–when you say you were working through a staffing agency, is this a temp or otherwise not-full-time/regular position? Did you interview with the actual company? Having worked a number of temp positions while in career flux, I can sympathize with this, but it’s unfortunately common that temp positions can fall through at any time, in all sorts of weird ways. Just curious about the staffing agency’s role here…

  6. Sean*

    I knew things like this have happened in the past, but honestly this is probably the first time I’ve actually seen a documented/hard-copy proof that it happens. I hope everything works out for OP, it’s ridiculous though that it even happened that way…

    1. moe*

      I saw this sort of thing, just as well documented or better, happen to grad students a few times. Budgets would get cut, the project would change focus, enrollment would be too low, etc., and they’d be out of a job. But the power structure of academia is such that a grad student really isn’t in a position to complain, so they’d find another project or funding and move on quietly. (Caveat that there might have been some small print I wasn’t privy to in the job offers.)

    2. KayDay*

      I know of a situation where a person was given and accepted an offer, but wasn’t informed that the position was contingent on a grant coming through. Everyone thought the grant was a sure thing, but when it was rejected the offer had to be rescinded. It was a really terrible situation.

    3. Piper*

      I was verbally offered a job and waiting for the official written offer (which was to come via e-mail) when I got a phone call saying the company had frozen hiring and the job was no longer available. Thankfully, I hadn’t put my notice yet, otherwise, I’d have been in the same situation as the OP.

      1. Kelly O*

        I was in a temp-to-hire when the company I was working for put all their temps in limbo, and then let us go. I’d quit another job after six months with the hopes of getting on with this notoriously hard to get on with company. It was frustrating to say the very least.

  7. Charles*

    Yep, whatever it was that hit the fan it sure didn’t spread evenly.

    If you cannot go back to your old place, I agree with AAM that most folks will understand and not hold it against you.

    The only difference that I have with AAM is getting lawyer involved – unless this was an executive type position with a very large salary most lawyers will not bother as there isn’t enough money in it for them. The amount of time and expense involved in trying to get anything just isn’t worth it.

    OP, best of luck to you.

    1. fposte*

      I think that’s true for filing suit, but lots of lawyers are happy to write stern letters for small sums.

      Of course what most people are really hoping for is a law that requires the employer to say “Oops, our bad! You’re hired after all,” and even with a successful case they’re not going to get that–what they get is some financial compensation years down the road.

    2. ChristineH*

      “The only difference that I have with AAM is getting lawyer involved – unless this was an executive type position with a very large salary most lawyers will not bother as there isn’t enough money in it for them.”

      Or if there was suspicion that discrimination against a protected class (e.g. religion, disability, race, etc) was involved.

      1. fposte*

        But then you have to go through the relevant government office first and get your right to sue established–you can’t just sue.

  8. jn*

    Please state the name of the staffing agency as well as the name of the hiring company. Prospective clients and employees should know that they are at risk when working with that agency and/or accepting an offer of employment from the company.

    1. Dave*

      If, once everything settles, the OP has not been satisfied, she could do exactly this and it would not be libel or slander because of the factuality.

      What she should not do, or hint at, is threaten to out their names if they don’t make it right.

  9. Canuck*

    That is awful! I was offered an overseas job a few years back via a placement agency, spoke with the overseas host, and received an email confirming the job offer, start date and training outline on a Wednesday and by Monday received an email from the placement agency that the offer had been revoked and my replacement had been found! It was all very confusing.

    Luckily everything worked out in the end because I hadn’t yet declined my grad school offers. I’ve since finished up grad school, gone on to work in several different countries and recently landed a spot at Oxford and the UN, so sometimes everything works out for the best :)

    Speak to your former employers and see if you can get your old job back ASAP. Don’t bother with this other company.

  10. Mary M.*

    This is absolutely wild, since I’m not the OP, but this is the exact same situation I was put in about a month ago. New job offer, verbally agreed to put in my notice to being as soon as possible, received “confirmation emails” and did all paperwork/background checks needed, and received a phone call a few days before my start date saying that the position had been frozen due to budgetary reasons and they could no longer offer me the position.
    As someone stated above, while on the phone I laid it all out on the line (“This leaves me unemployed and in a bad situation, what do I do?”). I received no help from this company.
    Then, as someone else stated above, I cried and cursed myself for getting into this situation before starting the employment search all over again…this time, without a job.
    I thought about going back to my previous employer, but the reason I left was because the job was misrepresented and had no professional advancement or opportunity. Basically, going back would only be sort term (until I find something else), since I would continue looking for other employment anyway. I figured, since I’m lucky enough to have some savings and support myself for a few months without employment, it would be best for me and my previous employer to find a better position/someone who is right for the previous position.
    It’s an awful thing to say, but it’s nice to hear that this has happened to other people, and it’s not just because I suck/have the worst luck ever. I also have two second interviews lined up, so I’m not in dire straights! But it’s definitely changed my view of the working world and hiring…since I’m new to the working world and didn’t expect this sort of situation to come up.
    Anyway, thanks AAM for unknowingly being there for me! I read this blog religiously and it always seems to help me in one way or another…!

    1. Mary M.*

      Side note to the OP: I’m so sorry this happened to you too! If you need employment, going back to your previously employer might be the best move right now, but don’t give up hope! I’m a firm believer that I dodged a bullet here…who knows how they would treat me as an actual employee! If you were unhappy at your previous job, keep looking…not all companies are like this. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or reach out to previous (other) employers, too…people are really understanding of the situation and definitely would be willing to help you out!
      Best of luck!

  11. ruby*

    You didn’t mention if staying with your old company was something you already looked into, so I’m not sure if you consider that an option or not. If they haven’t hired someone and you are on decent terms with them, I’d do my damdest to stay there, as painful and humiliating as it might seem. It’s unfair and you have a compelling story to tell potential employers but in my opinion, being unemployed for whatever reason is a HUGE impediment to getting a job. Many potential employers see it as a red flag – if no one else wants to employ this person, there must be something wrong with them. That’s not all employers but it’s enough of them that the experience you will have job-hunting as an unemployed person vs. an employed person will be significantly different.

    My heartfelt sympathies on this — it’s basically my job-hunting nightmare come true and makes me queasy to hear of it actually happening. I agree with AAM that you should pursue the job yankers with a polite but exceedingly firm letter (snail mail). They should be settling a month’s salary on you IMO.

    I know you don’t want to hear this now but when you are settled in a new job (or back at your old one), you will realize you dodge a bullet in the long run. A company so screwed up as to let this happen is not a place that you would want to work. I think the on-boarding process is a good indication of how well an organization functions…meaning these folks gets an F——.

    1. K Too*

      “Being unemployed for whatever reason is a HUGE impediment to getting a job. Many potential employers see it as a red flag – if no one else wants to employ this person, there must be something wrong with them. ”

      This is what is so wrong with corporate America and those that judge their fellow peers for being unemployed. There have been millions of people were let go from their jobs due to no fault of their own. Companies let go people with higher salaries, certain age groups, etc. so that the CEO can add more money to his bank account and pad the shareholders pockets.

      I wish more people would stop being judgmental about the unemployed/underemployed as to why they are unable to get a job within 3-6 months.

      Anyways, OP do contact your former employer to see if your former position is available and think about contacting a lawyer in case you can’t go back. This is a bad situation all around. At least you can tell others to avoid this company based on your experience.

      1. mh_76*

        “This is what is so wrong with corporate America and those that judge their fellow peers for being unemployed. There have been millions of people were let go from their jobs due to no fault of their own. Companies let go people with higher salaries, certain age groups, etc. so that the CEO can add more money to his bank account and pad the shareholders pockets.”

        LIKE LIKE LIKE…LIKE…etc…

        1. Long Time Admin*


          My mother was a young woman during the 1930’s, following the stock market collapse. There were very few jobs there, and in our city, there were many small companies. She told me that some of the business owners actually stopped taking money for themselves so that they could continue paying their workers and keeping them employed. Unheard of these days.

          1. class factotum*

            Not completely unheard of. Didn’t the CEO of Delta go without pay the last quarter several years ago after he asked the pilots to take a pay cut? I remember that because the bankruptcy judge made some snippy comment about how pilots were overpaid, which made me want to ask her if she thought it would be easier for a pilot to be a lawyer or for a lawyer to be a pilot.

            I also know that my cousins and uncles who have their own small businesses pay their employees first. If there is money left over, then the owner gets paid.

            1. Jamie*

              This is how it works in most small business I’m familiar with, as well. Employees first and owners if there’s enough left over.

              I’ve seen that IRL, but it’s also a running theme on that Restaurant Impossible show (my husband loves that show – I hate it, but I’m a good wife so I haven’t yet thrown out the TV). Restaurants with no cash flow and owners who haven’t drawn a salary in years – but meeting payroll.

              I work for a mid-sized family owned business and I can’t imagine a scenario like that happening, but if it ever did I know with utter certainty employees would absolutely get paid before anything else.

              I’m very cynical and trusting isn’t a word anyone would use to describe me, but I trust that.

              There are good employers out there.

              1. Anonymous*

                This is how it works in most small business I’m familiar with, as well. Employees first and owners if there’s enough left over
                I’m very cynical and trusting isn’t a word anyone would use to describe me, but I trust that.

                One might point out that paying the owners before the employees would likely run afoul of the 13th Amendment in the US, and similar laws in other countries. It’s not the business owner you’re trusting.

                1. Jamie*

                  True – but there are certainly people out there who would employ whatever tactics they could to shelter a much for themselves as possible.

                  I truly believe we’d be paid first because they would genuinely feel morally obligated. Fortunately, there isn’t any danger of this at the moment – so it’s all rhetorical.

              2. Kelly O*

                My husband worked for a small specialty software company in Dallas. When the owner had to basically shut down the business, he waited until after the holidays (and our wedding) to make the announcement. We found out he’d been paying everyone out of his own pocked for over four months, trying to see if things would pick up.

                There still are good guys out there. We don’t typically hear about them, and admittedly it feels like they’re fewer and farther between, but they exist.

            2. Anonymous*

              Didn’t the CEO of Delta go without pay the last quarter several years ago after he asked the pilots to take a pay cut?

              Steve Jobs’ nominal salary for running Apple was $1, but I don’t believe that was his entire compensation… be very, very sceptical of claims like that.

              1. Mike C.*

                Folks like that usually receive tons of stock instead. Which of course is taxed at the 15% rate instead of the full income rate that the rest of us pay.

              2. Laura L*

                Yeah, when talking about large (and publicly traded) companies, it’s generally the case that when the CEO doesn’t take a salary they are taking their income in stock options.

                1. Anonymous*

                  sigh I suspect that I should have put some sarcasm tags in my previous post.

                  On the stock options… I believe that it’s not unknown for CEO stock options to be so far ‘above water’ that they can almost run the company into the ground and still cash out. And I think that Apple got into some trouble with the SEC for retroactively changing the option strike price to favour board members (the huge increase in Apple’s stock price which occured since Jobs’ return probably saved them from really being in the firing line).

                2. Anonymous*

                  Anonymous @4:37pm,

                  I got what you were saying. I was chiming in to agree with you, not correct you. :-)

              3. jmkenrick*

                That claim is true, but he had a large amount of stock, so it doesn’t really mean much.

          2. Piper*

            In grad school, I worked on a business plan (which I truly plan to launch someday in the near-ish future). Because I knew I wanted to hire staff and pay them a good wage in the first year, I decided to build the financial plan so that I wouldn’t be paying myself the first year (possibly the first two).

            My instructor informed me that I wasn’t allowed to do this and I had to pay myself because it’s what investors expect. But I know many small businesses that operate like this AND have investors. I have many beefs with that instructor. This is just one of them.

  12. AD*

    I’m a little unclear on the role of the staffing agency, here. When I was placed through a third-party recruiter, the ultimate, final offer came from the company itself, not from the recruiter. Is that not the norm?

    1. bob*

      Yes, at many companies, especially in the tech industry, you actually work for the staffing agency who pays you, administers your benefits, etc.

    2. K.*

      Depends on the recruiter and the kind of position. If you’re doing contract/temp work, you’re employed by the recruiter, not the company – the company pays the recruiter and the recruiter pays you. If the company likes you and wants to make you permanent, they have to “buy you out” from the recruiter so you’re no longer employed by them. There are some recruiters who will place you so that you’re employed by the company, full stop, and it sounds like that’s the kind the OP was dealing with.

  13. blu*


    I’m curious as to if you would hire back someone who has already left for another position very recently. This just reminds me of your article about counter offers. I think that as an employer I would wonder how long I could count on that employee to stay if they returned. If they were an awesome employee I would consider it, but I would have concerns.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Depends on a lot of factors — was the person absolutely fantastic? Have I already replaced them? Do I believe that they won’t be actively job-searching right away again? Etc.

  14. fposte*

    I had a colleague that this happened to–there was interstate certification involved that the new employer swore could make work, and then told her the weekend she was moving out of state (utilities had been turned off, etc.) that they couldn’t. Fortunately, her old job was *thrilled* to have her back, but yeesh.

  15. Anonymous*

    This is awful! But try to look on the bright side… if they are treating you like this now, God only knows what it’s like on the inside, and how they treat their employees on a day-to-day basis.


    Hello everyone, I am the OP! Thank you everyone so much for the advice, encouragement, and sympathy. I am also relieved to see I am not alone in this challenging situation after reading a few comments from people who have had a similar experience.

    I have considered going back to my old job which may not be too difficult, it is in retail. But, I have not acted on it because I have some savings I can use for a couple months and have a few other interviews lined up. If I cannot find anything after a few months, I may go back to retail but am working very hard to find something else, even just doing office assistant type jobs.

    I expressed my frustration and disappointment to the company and they expressed their deep sorrow as well. They still have no open positions available and haven’t offered any other help so I am moving on. I am still struggling with what happened and am tempted to find a lawyer to receive some kind of severance but do no think it would be worth the effort/stress. I have done some research & it doesn’t look like the law would back me up very well. 

    I am so frustrated with the whole experience but am hopeful about my plan in simply finding a better employment opportunity soon. 

    1. AD*

      Can you clarify the role of the staffing agency? Were they just involved in placing you at the new job, or would you have been an employee of the staffing agency? Who actually gave you the job offer? And with whom did you follow up to note your disappointment?

      The reason I ask all this is because there are a lot of shady agencies out there, and I am wondering if the staffing firm misled you and the actual hiring company doesn’t know. If that’s the case, and you are able to do so, I’m sure the hiring company would want to know about this.


        The recruiter and the agency gave me the news that I was hired. But I also spoke with the manager at the company, who clarified what happened with the job offer being revoked to me. So, it looks like the company is at fault, not the agency.

      2. Steve G*

        Amen to that. I once did a temp job for 1 morning because I found out the first day that the job wasn’t really full-time. I expected 40/hours a week and asked for the pay rate accordingly. I found out the first day it was only 35 hours. I called Office Team back and they said anything over 32 hours, I believe, was fulltime, and if I left then, I wouldn’t be eligible for a job through them again! I did leave because I didn’t want to waste the client’s time.

    2. Mike C.*

      I think you need to speak with a labor lawyer and explore options for unemployment. If you had started and they laid you off you would be eligible, so I don’t see how this is any different.

      Saying, “well I’ll live off of my savings” is simply crazy. This company screwed you over and left you without employment through no fault of your own. You acted in good faith and have been harmed by their actions. You will continue to be harmed as long as you are without employment. Hiring managers will discriminate against you for being unemployed before you have a chance to explain your situation.

      Talk to a lawyer.

      1. Jamie*

        I agree that the OP should talk to a lawyer to see if they can scare them into paying some kind of settlement – but I don’t see where unemployment would come into play.

        Unless there is some obscure law on the books I don’t know about, she couldn’t file under the new company since she never worked there. And I don’t see how it would be ethical to file under the old company. She resigned, it’s not her former employer’s fault the job didn’t work out – so I can’t think of a scenario where it would make sense to hit them for the unemployment.

        1. Mike C.*

          I think you’re dismissing the lack of having started the job a bit too quickly.

          If anything, unemployment decisions are made by humans with guidance from the law and I’m willing to bet that many state courts or labor boards would consider this situation no different than being laid off on the first day of work.

          But this depends on state law and the labor boards that oversee it. That’s why a lawyer must be contacted.

          1. Jamie*

            I understand that ethically she was offered the job, but she didn’t start it. That’s not a gray area – unless she filled out paperwork and was on their books as an employee (even for five minutes) she never worked there, so their UI carrier would never even process the claim.

            I absolutely feel they owe her something, but unemployment doesn’t come into play for non-employees.

    3. Natalie*

      Definitely look into whether or not you are eligible to collect unemployment. It doesn’t hurt you to check, and you might as well extend your savings as much as you possibly can.

      1. Alisha*

        This happened to me last year, except the offer was revoked during my training period. Basically, it came down to me costing the company too much money. My boss didn’t clear my position with the other executive who would only be managing me indirectly, and I’d have been the third highest-paid person on payroll. Also, the company was smaller, and had individual-apply health insurance, a factor they hid from me in 4 rounds of interviews!. My state’s medical underwriting for small-group plans requires you to disclose all medical conditions and I have a couple chronic ones. Had I made it past the training period, I’d have been the only staffer who actually used the insurance (my coworkers were mostly younger and never went to the doctor, I was told), and would’ve driven their monthly group rates way, way up.

        Since I’m under 40, age discrimination wouldn’t apply, but ADA law would’ve. And my boss knew that, which is why he offered to settle with a lump sum payout, plus a salary for the full month. He urged me to get a lawyer and accept his offer, emphasizing what a “great deal” it was. A lawyer wasn’t possible for us financially, but my husband is great with contract law, and he informed me that it was, in fact, a terrible deal, so I went ahead and took my chances on applying for unemployment compensation. It took them six weeks to approve it, because the boss who revoked my position waited until the last possible moment to sign the papers from the state, but I got it. It was nice, because my first unemployment check included a month of back compensation from the period I’d been waiting. I have no idea whether a similar move would work out for the OP, but I’d explore every avenue for financial recompense, because you have no idea how long you’ll be out of work.

        The downside is, as mentioned upthread, that I’m still out of work, and I do think that employers look down on people in my situation, even though we all know that in many cases, the most talented people are not always hired. I mention what happened in my cover letters, and always emphasize that I chose to see it as an opportunity to enroll in training courses, go back to school part-time, and pick up freelance work, but I’ve only been on three interviews since last year’s holiday season. It’s a lot of work to convince employers how excited I am to return to work when I’m really crying inside, and I secretly harbor bitter distrust for the corporate world and fear for the future of America.

        I’m management in IT, which is said to be a strong field in my area, but I live in a conservative small town, and my field is much more male-dominated than it would be in a large coastal city. Complicating matters, most women my age are housewives, and that’s even more true in my sector. I wonder if it’s not only the resume gap that’s working against me, but also my age and gender, which may bring with them the fear that I’ll leave to have kids and never come back. My husband and I are childfree and happy to stay that way, but unfortunately, there’s no tactful way to say that in a cover letter.

        I’m so sorry about your situation, OP. I hope your job search bears more fruit than mine has.

        1. Alisha*

          p.s. My parents, who are retirement age themselves, and who remember their female colleagues fighting discrimination in the 70s and 80s, urged me to sue the company for breach of contract and for discriminating against an employee with medical issues. I take a neurological drug as well as MH medication, which are seen as major risks from an insurance underwriter’s perspective, and surely, an employer’s as well.

          I’ve not done so because the satisfaction of a financial settlement isn’t big enough to be worth the risk of getting blacklisted as a troublemaker in my profession. In a small town, word spreads fast. We figure we’d be better off just moving to a larger city. Trouble is, I’ve lost confidence, and everything just seems like too big of a risk anymore.

  17. Bill*

    This really sucks. The same thing happened to my father last week. He is 72, was laid off three years ago, and has been desperately struggling for any job in his field, even going back to school to try to enter into a new field. He finally got a job offer three weeks ago, in writing. Not only did he have a formal offer, he also signed all the paperwork: W2, EEOC disclosure, Direct Deposit paperwork, Noncompete agreement… Finally last week he was contacted again and told his start date was cancelled and he would not be working there. No reason was given.

    Part of what makes it so bad is that he cancelled interviews, which in this economy and at his age are hard to get in the first place, and also he provided financial information to the prospective employer. I took it on myself to send his noncompete paperwork to a lawyer to make sure it wouldn’t affect his job search, and also put fraud flags on his credit report. Next I’ll be looking at ways to pass these costs on to the “employer.” IMO if there was any doubt that the job was his, they never should have required him to submit banking information unless this was some sort of scam.

    Just my 2c.

    1. Anonymous_J*

      Bill, I think you are doing the right thing.

      I’d be furious if someone did that to one of my family members!

  18. Ann*

    I had a part-time staff member give two weeks notice. Before the two weeks were up, she went for a training day at her new position. And hated it. We had already posted her position, but since she had not come to the end of her two-week notice period, she was allowed to come back to her old position with us. This did not sit well with some of the people who wanted her position/hours, but we thought it was fair since her notice period had not yet expired. If she had already passed her official last day, we would not have let her back without re-applying for the position.

  19. Anonymous*

    To the original poster:

    The bottom line is this: the company has treated you appallingly. Treat it as though you’ve dodged a bullet which you certainly have, and next time, never quit your job until you’ve received an alternative offer in writing.

  20. V*

    when is a contract not a contract?
    when a company doesn’t want it to be, apparently.

    i would at least consult with an attorney. often they will give you a brief 10-15 minute phone call for free and then if you make an appointment charge you the hourly rate. at least, that’s what i;ve experienced.

    if the contract was the other way around the company would have no problem extracting its pound of flesh.

  21. nelmo*

    pleas help me, i work as a cleaner in an org for 8 years, despite my advancement in education they are saying nothing. so i have decided to resign.but on my resignation letter i gave them 2 months notice, however, they told me that my notification period was 1 month according my category, but the problem is that until the one month which was said by them has past they have not say anything concerning my departure , so can i write a reminder letter to them?and live immediately or should i wait again.

  22. jennifer meyer*

    I had something similiar..I was working for a consulting company, making very good money. I accepted a job offer for full time permanent employment. Put in my notice, the new job delayed the start date…put me in a predicament, hired in and went through orientation, spent 2 weeks not doing anything because the company had nothing set up for new hires for training besides orientation. After 10 days, I was terminated because the position i hired in for was eliminated. Now I have no job.

  23. Svaldez*

    Why would you quit a job for one through a staffing agency? Those jobs are typically considered temporary. While I agree that it sucks, it was still a bad move on your part.

    1. Svaldez*

      And if there is no contract, there are PROBABLY no grounds for severance or a settlement, but I would contact a lawyer to be sure.

  24. lisa m*

    i got confirmation of a job thru an agency it was for two wks. The receptionist called to tell me i asked her for the info on the job such as the location and it has been months now and i can’t get my recruiter on the phone but then they’re on tv telling the world that people don’t want to work bt they’re not saying how crappy their service is

  25. Shyam Sawalapurkar*

    My job offer was revoked before I started — and after I quit my job
    A reader writes:
    I was working with a Textile Company and received a job offer through them. I was informed by phone and corporate email that I’d been hired, with start date and start time. So, I have confirmed job through mail accept, would be quitting my current job, and would be able to start on the agreed start date, after my two-week’s notice.
    I am join in company agreed joining date but his not giving me Joining letter around 30 days, when I am talk with HR person his told me his not inform to your “Branch head “officer . Then I am ask him to Branch head but his told me I am inform to HR process will done some days. So I am requesting to Head give me a confirmation mail through HR & then his mail me “we don’t need to join come back I” that’s why I am unemployed.
    I am asking you this is a cheat & fraud case.Meanwhile, how I can claim for compensation?
    New interviewers why I am unemployed?

  26. Paul*

    I signed a contract at my job guaranteeing full time employment for as long as I work for the company. We are now under new management & they are replacing me w/someone else w/ a higher degree, thus phasing me out. Do I have any recourse?

  27. Anonymous*

    I be mad and disappointed. I’ve worked for my current employer for four years now and now need to find another job to add on because of financial, so really looking forward to my new assignment with the temp agency but received a call by the end of the week saying they won’t work with me anymore due to a bad reference which is my current boss. What should I do ??now?

  28. Anderson*

    Dear All,

    I received offer letter from ‘X’ company (abroad), company and myself all formalities is fine….now the delay is working permit visa its take 2month time. how i can reminding ‘X’ company for visa process ?
    hope i get best answer and format from u..,

  29. Happy*

    This happened to me. A top corporation in the Philippines (let’s call it company X) offered me a position and they already asked me to finish all my paperwork. I have already declined all the offers I got. A week before the start date, They decided not to hire me anymore because of my medical condition which I informed them about from the very very start. I even have a fit to work order from my doctor.

    It was so unfair—also illegal! But I don’t want to waste my time and pursue legal action against them because it is costly and may permanently sever my ties with the company.

    Now I am employed for 4 months in another company (who doesnt care abt my medical condition)when I got an offer from the main competitor of Company X. They gave me a really good offer and a really good position. I will be having my formal job offer tomorrow. But I’m really really paranoid now,in fear that they will also one day take back their offer. Now I am confused because given my start date, I should already send my resignation letter to my present company this week.

    What will I do to get assurance that this new company will not be able to do what Company X did to me?

  30. Jo*

    This happened to me as well, and at an internal position! I interviewed for a job, the gave it to me and the recruiter told me that she would have all the paperwork and approvals done in a few days 40 days later, I received an email that the job had been cancelled, without reason as to what happened. I don’t think this is a good practice at all, a company should not post a job if they are eventually going to pull it.

  31. Brian*

    There seems to be a concept known as promisary estopple. Basically someone promises you something, you take a financial loss due to that promise and then they renege on that promise. You would be entitled to monetary damages.

    Also even if you were technically fired in this situation, FILE FOR UNEMPLOYMENT!!! Many states will side with the employee. Trust me, I was at a company that fired someone for drug abuse, basically came to work high, had witnesses to the event, etc. and they were still granted unemployment!

    Also you could claim that there was no appropriate warning. Companies typically need to show that you were fired for a documented reason, a department reshuffling is a layoff, not a firing.

  32. Mike*

    The laws need to be changed to address these types of situations.
    The employers seems to hold all the cards and the employee no rights whatsoever. This really is strange coming from a country that makes claim to being so far in treatment where its people and work is concerned.
    Corp America just gets away with murder. Not this time I’m in the process of posting what happened on the web with the companies name and the people involved. To include the recruiting company that started this whole nightmare. The Centrics Group
    3140 Northwoods Parkway, Suite 700
    Norcross, GA 30071
    United States of America

  33. Sarah*

    I’ve passed long interviews and got offer letter (very detailed) and starting date 1.11. It was in October and in meantime I needed to prepare all documents (attesting degree, police clearance, etc) coz I’m living on the other continent.. So preparation included also traveling to home country (airplane tickets, bus tickets, hotels, etc) .. HR said that all expenses will be reimbursed upon presentation of receipts.. That’s sounds ok with me.. I’ve done the same w previous employer.. After 2.5 months of waiting (they keep on sending me every single week emails with thanks for waiting and telling me they will have updates following week), finally they wish me luck and said they are unable to proceed with recruitment. No explanation, no nothing. After unpleasant surprise I sent them nice email, but at the end I asked for refund for all expenses.. They didn’t re for a week now. Any advice? Do I have any legal rights in this case?

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