I received a verbal offer, "...contingent on background, drug, and physical...", from a company that stated in the interview process they "do not do offer letters." This is a privately-held, family-run business and they operate by their own set of rules.

The offer was made in this manner: "...I am offering you the job, contingent on Background and Drug, which I have to say..." "...The comp will be base plus signing bonus because I can do more that way..."

I took the physical and drug screen and passed and my background cleared later that week. I asked the HR person handling this if I could resign from my current position and she said, "Yes. This is how they operate and everything is in line with their requirements." I received the New Hire paperwork, resigned my job, filled out the paperwork, and returned it. I am now on ice, "waiting" for one brother to talk to the other, when I know for a fact they already talked about this and the one brother told the other brother to move forward. I have this in an e-mail.

They may take me off ice in the next few days or week and if they do not, is this a valid job offer which was reneged on, breaching our verbal agreement?

  • What country/state are you in? Makes a big difference as to the answer. – Steve Dec 12 '12 at 21:16
  • USA, Georgia. They are Chicago, IL based. – Samantha Dec 12 '12 at 21:18
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    Please refer to the FAQ discussion of legal questions. That said, the email might help if you were to actually take them to court. However, in the future, I recommend responding to "This is how we do business" with something like "Sorry, but the way I do business is to require a written job offer." and wait until you receive it to submit your resignation to your current employer. – GreenMatt Dec 12 '12 at 21:53
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    IANAL but legal "recourse" (in the form of a court date) can show up on future background checks. Nothing raises a red flag to an employer like a potential hire who has sued previous/prospective employers. If you're going to do that, you'll want to be certain it is really, really worth it. – Angelo Dec 13 '12 at 15:58
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    Why would you quit your job before you had a starting date? The problem you have is you jumped the gun. They can choose to wait 12 months before they bring you on if they want. – Donald Dec 20 '12 at 12:28

Legally, assuming you are in the United States (other countries likely have very similar approaches), a verbal contract is just as binding as a written one. The problem, however, is that it is far more difficult to prove that there was a verbal contract or exactly what that verbal contract stated. Since you have no written proof, the company merely has to show up in court and make a plausible argument that there was no agreement and it would be very difficult for you to prevail. And from a damages standpoint, since the company would generally be well within their rights to fire you the day after they hired you, what you could hope to recover is pretty minimal.

Realistically, if they decide to pull the offer, you probably have very limited options. If you left your prior job on good terms, you could potentially approach them to see if they'd take you back. I would definitely restart my job search if you're not comfortable with the position you're in.

  • Spot on @Justin-Cave! Verbal/implied offer or not, remember it's 'right to work' so there are no legal commitments either way. – Steve Dec 12 '12 at 21:32
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    @Stephen: I think the phrase you're looking for is "employment at will". "Right to work" relates to union membership. And both vary depending on the jurisdiction. – Keith Thompson Dec 12 '12 at 23:09
  • Thanks Guys, I am also aware of the "Employment at Will" status in Georgia, so I appreciate the discussion here. – Samantha Dec 13 '12 at 12:17
  • Unless you recorded it, your verbal offer is worth nothing. Even if you had, the new company may have money to pay you, and the point would be moot anyway. If you're working in an "At Will" state, you have even less recourse. Remember, never NEVER resign your current job until you have signed the employment offer for the new one. DO NOT TRUST VERBAL OFFERS – sevensevens Nov 26 '14 at 19:21

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