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Patrick, Esq.
Patrick, Esq., Lawyer
Category: California Employment Law
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Experience:  Significant experience in all areas of employment law.
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I was hired by a company through a temp agency. In about one

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I was hired by a company through a temp agency. In about one month into working there I took 2 tests and was interviewed for a full time position in the company. I was verbally hired by the president of the company and she said I would be put on their payroll after my 500 hour contract with the temp agency was completed. I had bout 416 hours completed on Friday. After work on Friday I got a phone call from the temp agency telling me that my job had come to an end. I was shocked. We had a verbal agreement. If I had known that I did not have a permanent job there I would have been looking for another job. So here I am jobless and without medical insurance. Is this kind of trick legal?
Good afternoon and thank you for entrusting me to answer your question. This is quite unfortunate and I can certainly appreciate your frustration, since you put a halt to your job hunt in reliance on the verbal offer.

Unfortunately, the laws in this area strongly favor the employer. Absent an employment contract guaranteeing employment for a specified period of time, employment in the state of California is presumed to be "at will." More specifically, California Labor Code Section 2922 provides that: "employment, having no specified term, may be terminated at the will of either party on notice to the other." What this means is that an employer is free to terminate employees for any reason whatsoever and at any time whatsoever unless the underlying motivation is discriminatory or otherwise in violation of California law.

Since "at will" employment is terminable at any time and this company would have been free to terminate you after your first day of full-time employment, there is no law that would prevent them from simply rescinding your offer before you began full-time.

The only conceivable exception to this general rule, absent proof of discriminatory motives for rescinding the offer, would be based upon the equitable theory of "detrimental reliance." Detrimental reliance is a legal theory that entitles a claimant to damages where they were promised something, they reasonably and foreseeably relied on that promise, and then were harmed as a result of that reliance.

However, claims for detrimental reliance based on recission of a job offer have had very limited success in court, since they essentially undermine the doctrine of at-will employment described above. Furthermore, success has been confined primarily to those cases in which the employee incurrs significant costs to accept the position (i.e. relocates for the purpose of accepting the position). The fact that you refrained from looking for another position, while understandably frustrating, would not ordinarily qualify as a sufficient "detrimental reliance" to successfully evoke this equitable theory of law. People "rely" on their employment all the time (i.e., purchase homes, cars, etc.) only to be suddenly laid off, and such reliance does not change the nature of their "at will" employment.

All of this is to say that what you descirbe extremely unfair and understandbly frustrating, but almost certainly not illegal.

I realize that the law is not entirely in your favor here and I am truly sorry to have to deliver bad news. Nonetheless, I trust that you will appreciate an accurate explanation of the law and realize that it would be unprofessional of me and unfair to you to provide you with anything less.

Please do not hesitate to let me know if you have any questions or concerns regarding the above and I will be more than happy to assist you further.

If you do not require any further assistance, I would be most grateful if you would remember to provide my service a positive rating, as this is the only way I will receive credit for assisting you.

Finally, please bear in mind that none of the above constitutes legal advice nor is any attorney client relationship created between us.

Very best wishes to you.
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