Can an Employer Rescind a Job Offer?

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What to Do When a Job Offer Vanishes

Rescind is one of those words that even sounds unpleasant. The dictionary definition is “to “overturn” or “take back.” So if you’re told your job offer has been rescinded, your first thought is, how can they do that? The truth is that they can. And you, too, can rescind your acceptance of a job. But in both situations, rescinding makes at least one person unhappy, plus, it can even hurt careers, ruin reputations, and upset you and your life with your family. So, if one or the other happens to you, consider your options, rights and consequences before you take action.

Find Out Why

The first action to take when a job offer is pulled is to ask what happened (in a professional manner). Employers do rescind job offers, but there’s usually a good reason why they do it. After all, it’s sticky and unpleasant for them, too, and they don’t want to gain the reputation of being that employer.

Sometimes, a potential employer rescinds an offer when the job has been cancelled, revised or budgeting for the position was slashed. It’s also true that, in reality, someone higher up decided to repay a favor to his brother-in-law by giving him the job you were promised. But, if you don’t ask, you’ll always wonder.

It could be, too, something you did after they made the offer or that they discovered about you afterwards. Accepting an offer, shaking on it, maybe even signing an offer letter and then calling later to try to renegotiate salary is a big turn-off for employers. Or, it could be they found something troubling in your background check.

Today, social media sometimes is the culprit. Photos of you partying at the beach, using coarse language or making threats can cause potential employers to think twice. Employers check social media accounts, so be careful what you post and even what’s posted on your timeline by other people.

Is It Legal?

Most of the time, it’s legal for an employer to rescind an offer, just as it’s legal for you to change your mind, even after an offer letter has been received and signed. In most states, employment is “at will,” which means that either you or an employer can hire, fire, accept, reject or quit for almost any reason.

If you think you’ve been a victim of any type of discrimination, however, you should get advice from a lawyer. It’s against the law to make such decisions based on race, gender, disability or age, for example.

Yikes! You’ve Already Relocated

Chances are that if an employer rescinds an offer, it’s before you’ve moved for the job. But, if it happens after your move and you were asked to move to take the job, you may be entitled to reimbursement for your moving expenses. Ask for reimbursement, and if it’s denied, get legal advice to see where you stand. Sometimes, just a letter from an attorney is enough to spur the company to action, simply to avoid legal trouble.

Never make a move or pay nonrefundable deposits toward moving until you have the written offer in your hand. It should describe the job and the salary, and, if the offer includes relocation costs, the amount of those should be specified.

What to Do Next

If you already told your current employer you’re leaving, asking to stay on is probably not the best idea. Of course, if they ask you to stay, only you know whether that’s workable or not. But, you can let them know what happened and offer to stay longer to give them more time to hire the right person and help ease the transition.

Rescinding Your Acceptance

A time may come when you change your mind about a job after you’ve accepted it. Maybe you got an offer that you can’t refuse from another company. Or, you decided the schools your children currently attend are better in your present location.

Your reason doesn’t really matter, although you should be prepared to give one because you’ll probably be asked why you changed your mind. Be honest about your reason.

Rescinding an acceptance, whether you accepted verbally or in writing, is legal, and so is quitting a job after just a short time at work. However, it isn’t going to help your reputation if you become known as someone who does so regularly, so exercise this option sparingly.