Job Offer Letter rescinded

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009 - Article, career transition, Employer, job offers, Legal


Job Offer?

Thurgood Marshall Memorial
Creative Commons License photo credit: jimbowen0306

When is a job offer not a job offer? When you need to read the job offer letter!

The recent case of Schley v. Microsoft Corporation in the United States has brought about a lot of debate in the recruitment industry and among HR Professionals of what is an offer letter?

In background, New Jersey resident candidate Mr Schley received a written offer letter for Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, WA; which stated his employment was at-will and the offer was conditional on a successful background check. He resultantly spoke with the hiring manager Michele Gammer, who encouraged him to quit his current job and begin looking at houses in Washington: recommending specific neighbourhoods; giving Schley the name of a real estate agent to contact; and had ultimately facilitated his purchase of a new home from an acquaintance of hers.

Schley quit his job and purchased a house in Redmond, there by moving from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast. However, his background check uncovered a criminal felony conviction, and Microsoft resultantly withdrew the job. Having relocated back to New Jersey, Schley successfully sued Microsoft and Gammer et al, claiming the company asked him to leave his employer and move across the country under the promise of a new job.

The key in this case is the role of the hiring manager Michele Gammer, and the issue on which the judge gave judgement to Schley. Although the job offer letter correctly legally stated that the offer was conditional on a background check, as hiring manager Gammer had given both encouragement to leave his existing job and specific assistance/guidance on how to move, the judge found for the plaintiff, Mr Schley.

If the same case came about in the UK, present legal thought is that the same conclusion would be reached.

The key issue in the case is bound in the question of where a contract of employment exists, but also where was it indicated by actions of either part that the offer was unconditional? Although the job offer letter correctly stated the offer was conditional, the actions of Gammer resultantly in the eyes of the judge removed those conditions. Although Gammer’s actions didn’t make the offer unconditional, Schley sued successfully for costs of: loss of earnings, moving (twice) and duress.

Hence although UK law differs – through the process of offer, consideration, and acceptance – the result of judgement would most likely have been the same.

Candidates should always read Job Offer Letters fully, and not make any decisions – particularly not submitting a Letter of Resignation – until the offer is final. HR professionals should always remember company HR policy, employment law and wider commercial law in that jurisdiction, and act within the law and appropriately to that stage of the hiring process.

Personally, clear mistakes were made on both sides, but in the eyes of the judge the greater was the encouragement followed through by actions of hiring manager Michele Gammer.

Beware – and Good Luck!

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One Response to “Job Offer Letter rescinded”

  1. Nila Wings Says:

    Excellent post – Thank You!

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